It can be frustrating to have a conversation with someone who is difficult. You may come away from the experience without the answers you wanted, and believe the person is a selfish, immature jerk.
But instead of blaming the other person for the bad interaction, consider that it may be a matter of you not clearly defining an issue or problem and letting the conversation get off track.
In a new book, “I Hear You: Repair Communication Breakdowns, Negotiate Successfully, and Build Consensus… In Three Simple Steps,” Donny Ebenstein offers advice on learning to behave and think differently when interacting with difficult people. In this interview with me, he explains a strategy that involves role-playing to improve your communication skills.
AB: What exactly do you mean by role-playing? Is it like pretending or acting?
DE: Role playing is a technique in which two people take on roles, and then have a conversation while in those roles. For example, if I were to role play a conversation in which I want to ask my boss for a raise, I would take on the role of myself at work, and my partner would take on the role of my boss. I would begin the role by asking for the raise, while my partner would respond as my boss, and we would continue the conversation from there.
The key to role playing is that there is no script; my partner, as my boss, is free to react in whatever way feels natural to her in that role. The conversation progresses with each party reacting to the other, unscripted.
AB: Why is role-playing so important when it comes to improving your communication skills?
DE: When done correctly, role playing provides a realistic and authentic sense of how a conversation may go, which is enormously valuable.
If I am considering adopting a forceful approach to asking my boss for a raise, for example, I can first role play it with a friend or colleague as my boss and gauge their reaction, (read more here)-
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