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Trainer QA

When using the STATE skills, is it okay to use facts from a third party?

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Justin Hale 

Justin Hale is a Master Trainer and Consultant with VitalSmarts.

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Q When using the STATE skills, is it okay to use facts from a third party? For example, suppose your friend tells you that your manager has taken credit for three of your great ideas in the project team meetings that the friend and the manager attend. Would you share facts such as, “My friend told me that you have taken credit for three of my ideas at the project team meetings?”

A This is a great question and one we get often. We need to be careful sharing someone else’s experience as a fact, because when your friend shares an experience, his or her story may also include some bias as to what he or she actually saw or heard (turning facts into a story). If you want to use a third party’s witness to share facts, you would need to do it tentatively (or not at all, until you can verify it yourself “through direct means.”) In essence, consider sharing what your friend shared as a story rather than a fact. I would also try to include any real facts that you may have.

Here are some ways you might consider sharing the third-party details:

  • “I have some concerns I want to discuss with you. Some members on the team have come to me and have stated that they perceived your comments in the meeting as_____. I’m not sure what to think, and I wanted to talk to you directly to know more.”
  • “I wasn’t in the meeting last week, but some individuals have approached me regarding your presentation. Their perception was _____. I have noticed _____ and _____ behaviors and wanted to come to you directly to ensure I am not missing any key facts.”
  • “I have some concerns and I need to be candid that I don’t have facts from personal experience, yet I am feeling a little concerned and I want to check out some things with you. I’ve heard from some colleagues _____, and I’m not even sure these stories are accurate, but I wanted to discuss with you to get clarity between the two of us. Can you please share your perspective and help me understand?”

To sum things up, you may share these elements when Stating Your Path, but you need to be transparent about where the information has come from and what your intent is in using the information in your conversation. We need to remember our motive. If your motive for sharing the third-party information is to confront them with a “got ya,” then you need to get your intentions in the right place before you ever open your mouth. These situations are never easy, but we do believe the Crucial Conversations skills may help you have an effective conversation when such concerns are brought to your attention by others.

5 thoughts on “When using the STATE skills, is it okay to use facts from a third party?”

  1. very important distinction.. facts.. and facts as others might see them..being tentative and candid is the key here..thank you for sharing this.

  2. Justin – A closely related question I have has to do with a tendency of people to get upset when they are not given the right to face their accuser. So if I say, “I have some concerns I want to discuss with you. Some members on the team have come to me and have stated that they perceived your comments in the meeting as_____. I’m not sure what to think, and I wanted to talk to you directly to know more.” I would expect the initial response to often be, “Which team members?” If one was told the information in confidence, as is often the case, how would you recommend answering this question?

    1. That’s a great point Kai. If someone told me something “in confidence” then I would likely not use their meaning in the CC. I would only share meaning I was willing to “own” or explain where the source came from. This can be an incredibly sticky situation and the more that I focus on what I really want the better I will be at sharing the right meaning. I think I would hold a different conversation with the team members who are gossiping about why they aren’t holding the CC THEY should be holding. I think that is a conversation we don’t have enough. We are happy to listen to people’s gripes as we try to be a good sounding board. But if we don’t encourage them to then master those stories and go hold the CC that is keeping them stuck, I think we are doing more harm then good when we listen to these gossip “drive bys.”

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