Advice for Tough Corporate Conversations Using the FISH! Philosophy

Published On: November 1, 2023Categories: Blog

Conversations seem so simple – after all, they’re something we all do every day, and all they are is just talking to people right? So why is it that some conversations can feel so tough to navigate? Particularly in the corporate world, where professional norms and divergent power dynamics combine with tight deadlines and big emotions, not every conversation is easy, and it’s tempting to try to just ignore them entirely.

But having tough conversations in the workplace is a necessity if we want to get things done efficiently and effectively and build a random assortment of employees into a real team and community. Whether collaborating with people who hold different points of view, to engaging with coworkers you may not naturally get along with, to managers needing to give tough feedback about performance issues, an ability to navigate tricky conversations is crucial to the success of any organization.

Here’s how you can use the FISH! Philosophy to help you get through these conversations rather than trying to work around them:

Be There: Start every conversation fresh

Be There means being present in every conversation, keeping your mind in the current moment and attending to what’s in front of you – especially when it’s another person.

For many of us, we go into conversations with a set of assumptions and preconceived notions – this is true for any conversation, but it’s especially true for the harder ones. We assume we know the cause of someone’s performance troubles. We assume that coworker who’s annoyed us in the past will continue to annoy us. We assume that our boss’s disagreement stems from a desire to obstruct and cause conflict.

But the more you can practice Being There, turning your mind towards what someone is sharing with you in the moment (through their words, actions, and non-verbal communication), the more we can practice setting aside these assumptions and entering every conversation on a level playing field that allows us to communicate openly and respectfully.

Play: Stay open to new ideas

When we talk about Play, we’re talking about a willingness to engage in conversations and activities outside our preconceptions or our comfort zone, and a willingness to entertain ideas different from our own – even when they feel a little “out there.”

Some of our most difficult conversations arise when we dig our heels in and fight back, instead of opening ourselves up to the possibility that there may be some validity when someone presents a concept that challenges us.

When it comes to disagreements, we often think that we’re being open-minded, but when presented with new ideas, we dismiss them under the assumption that we’re automatically right. Now, Play doesn’t mean that every wild idea needs to come to fruition; it just means that we need to act intentionally to create the space for new ideas to flourish without immediate judgment. When we create this space in our conversations, our collaborations can breed new and wonderful ways forward that set us apart from our competition.

Make Their Day: Recognize their feelings and their perspective

Sometimes, conversations aren’t hard just because of the topic, but because of the emotions involved – when someone comes into a conversation with big emotions, they often aren’t looking towards solutions. A solution would be great, but those can’t always be reached until these heavy feelings are acknowledged.

We talk a lot about Make Their Day, the FISH! Philosophy core teaching that covers how our smallest actions can have major impacts – and this skill is absolutely fundamental for navigating these emotionally loaded talks with our coworkers, managers, and direct reports.

A simple act of acknowledgement – “I see why you feel this way,” “This is a tough situation and it’s understandable to be upset,” “How are you feeling? Do you need to talk?” – can help make someone feel heard and bring them back onto an even keel, where the conversation can start to shift towards finding solutions.

Choose Your Attitude: Stay focused on your desired outcome

So how do we keep these conversations positive and moving forward? It involves knowing your goal and staying laser-focused on that goal. That doesn’t mean you need to be cold or uncaring towards your conversation partner – as we discussed above, these acts of kindness and compassion can (and often are) crucial for navigating the difficult path towards your goal.

Instead, it simply means practicing Choose Your Attitude – going into a conversation oriented towards your goal, preparing for potential challenges (including not only difficult conversation partners, but ways in which you yourself react in ways that may make reaching your goal more difficult), and having a clear idea of what direction in which you want the conversation to move.

By staying goal-oriented, you can maintain focus and keep conversations from derailing, even when emotions are running hot. In fact, doing so can also help strengthen and maintain those relationships instead of adding stress or conflict to them, which leads to better outcomes not just for us as individuals, but the business as a whole.

Ideas to Reflect On:

  • What’s one thing you can do to practice proactively engaging in difficult conversations rather than avoiding them?
  • Do you have any coworkers who tend to react to tough talks with big emotions? How can you make them feel seen and heard while still working towards your desired outcome?
  • Do you ever find yourself digging in your heels when your preconceptions are challenged? How can you practice being more open-minded?

Want to Implement FISH! in your organization?

Are you a leader?  Do you train others?  Do you want others to be leaders?

Charthouse Learning, the creator of the world-famous, award-winning, FISH! film is offering an in-person, 2-day workshop, interactive Train-the-Trainer lead by our Senior Trainer.

During our time together you’ll learn how to:

  • Share the motivation and foundation of FISH!
  • Introduce the FISH! film with the four practices.
  • Present the invitation to apply the practices in everyday interaction with others.
  • Build a sustainability and reinforcement program to transform the culture.
  • Pick up tips from other FISH! Philosophers and develop a strategy to embed the practices into the DNA of your culture.
  • Create an energized organization that is the “first choice” for employees, faculty, staff, leaders, and customers.

Plus, you will learn how to create a workplace where people choose to “be and bring” their best self everywhere, every day.

At the FISH! Train the Trainer you will:

  • Dive Deep: Discover The FISH! Philosophy – full of “A-ha!” takeaways and perspective-shifting realizations.
  • Transform: Make the four FISH! practices – Play, Be There, Make Their Day and Choose Your Attitude – an essential part of your professional and personal skill set.
  • Discover: Learn practical ways to apply the FISH! practices to improve teamwork, service, leadership, retention and performance.
  • Develop: Brainstorm strategies to embed The FISH! Philosophy into the DNA of your culture, strengthening your mission, vision and values.
  • Collaborate: Learn and laugh with like-minded folks from across the globe.

Click Here for More FISH! Train the Trainer Information

FISH! Starter Kit

The first step in a successful FISH! journey is a remarkable introduction. A FISH! Philosophy kickoff event:

  • Inspires people to find the joy they have been missing at work.
  • Teaches four powerful skills you can use immediately for team and personal success.
  • Unites team members to accomplish any goal.
  • Is incredibly fun . . . and people learn more when they have a good time!

The FISH! Starter Kit provides all the tools you need to plan and lead a great kickoff.

Click Here for More FISH! Starter Kit Information

Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and introduce Play into your organization. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!

 Join Us on Social Media:

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Subscribe to Our Blog

Dive into the Deep End of Culture Transformation