On 2/19/15, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery sponsored a training for members of our leadership committee entitled, “Fierce Conversations: How to Communicate Effectively and Respectfully.”  Yvonne Caputo, trainer for Penn Foundation’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), reviewed the challenges associated with delivering critical or negative news to employees.  Penn Foundation’s EAP services are offered to New Vitae employees who are looking to receive assistance with their own recovery goals or personal goal planning.  During Yvonne’s training, managers were given the opportunity to learn new ways to think about challenging conversations and had the chance to use role play and other group activities to develop their communication skills.

Ms. Caputo stressed the importance of respect to all conversations.  Yvonne acknowledged that building respect between the two speakers prior to engagement in a difficult conversation ensures that both parties are heard and understood.  After a respectful relationship has been established, Ms. Caputo suggested that supervisors need to consider their communication style (aggressive, non-assertive, or passive aggressive) and be aware of their non-verbal communication signals, including personal space, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact in order to present a professional image in conversations with co-workers.  Ms. Caputo also suggested strong consideration of the words we choose as a foundation for success in difficult conversations.  She recommended the use of the “I feel…When you…Because…I want” paradigm when reviewing a taxing situation.  She also reviewed the benefits associated with a supervisor identifying his/her contribution to the difficult situation as a means to further team-building conversation.  She modeled ways to ask open-ended questions to establish accountability in a difficult situation and highlighted the advantages of fully exploring solutions to the problem.

Strategies for engaging in challenging discussion included visualizing a safe place prior to the conversation and practicing active listening.  Visualizing a favorite place or activity will help to ease the tension that might play a factor in poorly navigating fierce conversations.  Additionally, the use of mirroring, paraphrasing, and actively listening to a speaker will help to build understanding within the conversation.  Ultimately, Ms. Caputo provided supervisors with additional tools that can be utilized when piloting teams through challenges.  The valuable techniques reviewed within the training can be adapted for work or personal discussions.  Special thanks to Yvonne for her knowledge and support!
For mental health and behavioral health treatment, contact New Vitae Wellness and Recovery.