Delivering bad news, Strike a Pose!

We talked earlier about why it’s important to learn to speak up for yourself.  It’s essential to your business that you be able to confidently have those conversations that seem, uh, awkward to you.

One of the toughest conversations to have is delivering bad news.  Maybe you screwed up.  Or changing conditions made an uncontrollable delay. Or the budget just won’t accommodate everything your client wants. Somehow, there’s an issue.

If you’re a realtor, wedding planner, virtual assistant, web designer or any type of small business consultant, you probably have one of these on a weekly  basis with your clients.

I’m guessing you’re not thrilled about it.  Understandable.  We all want to do our best work.  And, it sucks when that doesn’t happen.  Truth is, everyone fumbles or stumbles.

You’re not alone.  You’re also not incredibly stupid, flaky, untalented or whatever other negative judgement you’ve heaped on yourself. Did you know Michael Jordon lost 300 games in his career and credits his failures with making him great?

I’m not saying take the easy way our or excuse yourself of accountability when you screw up.  I’m saying recognize that you are not a Polaroid, but rather a screw-ball dramedy with a ton of plot twists that has a happy ending.  Be compassionate to you!

Also, be honest with your client.  You are the thought leader, the professional, so it’s your job to explain what happened, why and what options are available now that the poop has hit the fan.

My best tips for starting a difficult conversation

My best tips are simple, but they do take practice.

Strike a Pose  Get your head in a confident space by moving your body. Social scientist, Amy Cuddy,  says striking a power pose- hands on hips, feet spread wide- think Wonder Woman- can convince your mind that you are more powerful.  Cool, huh?

No one has to see you do this.  You can physically do it in your office before a phone call. Or imagine yourself in that pose or with your feet propped on a desk, leaning back with your arms folded behind your head.

It really works.  You can even do it in the middle of conversation.  . I’ve paused in plenty of face-to-face conversations to take a deep breath, clasp my hands behind my back, rock on my toes and settle my weight fully on my heels (my version of a power pose).  It has the same centering, empowering effect  with the added bonus of  making you look thoughtful and smart.  Inside though, I was calming down and screwing up my courage and confidence.

Be open and vulnerable

It’s okay to share your feelings about the mix-up.  Say so if you feel upset or disappointed.  Your client has been there before and will appreciate your honesty and commiserate with your feelings.   Showing your real emotions connects you with  your client through compassion and helps stem her feelings of frustration and loss.

This isn’t a pity party for you or a chance to rant about how hard things have been.  No excuses and no  wallowing in guilt, ripping your hair or weeping mea culpa.  All that is about you.  This conversation is about your client and finding solutions.   That’s why you struck a pose, remember? So you could have the conversation from a place of strength not loss.

Have the beginning of a plan

Normally, I’d say have a plan a, b, and c.  But over the course of twenty years in business, and being a mediator, I’ve learned people do best when they are involved in creating the solution.

There’s more buy-in and accountability later from clients who don’t have a solution pushed on them.  So, definitely have options to present (not more than 3) and ask for suggestions, preferences.

Next time, I’ll take more about creating options and setting expectations.

What do you think of this strategy? Would it work for you?


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