There are many annoying people out there. People who don’t listen, who interrupt, who say one thing to our face and another behind our back. These are people we don’t trust or like. They exist and, sometimes, they’re us.

And yet we need to work effectively with others – even when they’re not perfect or perfectly lovely. We need them to get the results we care about. Very few of us are lucky enough to be entirely self-sufficient.

A thing we hear a lot when talking HardTalk is people justifying their “bad behaviour” by referring to the behaviour of others. They say things like “well, my boss never listens” or “my colleague is lazy” and use these as reasons for not bringing up the subject they want addressed or for not using the HardTalk principles in the difficult conversations they do have.

I understand this. It makes sense that your history with other people – the experiences you’ve had with them in the past – will have an effect on how you (want to) treat them. But the point of difficult conversations is to improve the results we get. It’s not about being “right” or feeling good right now. Instead it’s about behaving in a manner that allows you to understand the other person and so influence their behaviour. And making sure that they can understand you, your issues and what you’re trying to achieve.

Justifying our “bad behaviour” (in HardTalk terms this means any behaviour that moves us away from getting the results we care about) based on the bad behaviour of others may feel good and give us a sense that justice has been done. But that’s in the short-term. In the long-term we don’t move anything forward. Our lives don’t get better. We don’t achieve what we really, really want.

Instead of spending our time justifying behaviour that we know isn’t helpful we need to focus on our longer-term objectives i.e. the Purpose we have in the HardTalk. For example, you may want to roll your eyes and sigh when your boss brings up an issue you’ve already thought about and dealt with or your colleague asks a question you are “sure” has an ulterior motive but, before you do, ask yourself if this is aligned to your real Purpose. If not then stop. And don’t justify your bad behaviour because of theirs.


If you’d like to learn more about mastering the art and science of difficult conversations or HardTalk you can do so here; by signing up for the newsletter or sending us an email. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this and other topics on LinkedIn or Twitter .

Dawn Metcalfe is an executive coach, facilitator, trainer and leadership advisor. She is also the author of Managing the Matrix (published in both English and Arabic) and HardTalk™. Dawn is the founder of Dubai based PDSi, which helps individuals and teams get even better at what they do, and has worked with business leaders around the world to change the way they see the world, their behaviour and their impact on others.


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