We heard from many of you that you’ve tried some of the suggestions from our What’s your tone? post, and that you’ve had success in some conversations that could have gone awry. Good for you!

Some of you wrote that, despite trying some of these suggestions, you were still unable to come to an agreement on how to move forward. We want to assure you that it happens to the best of us.

So, today, we’re going to walk you through one of our popular frameworks that we initially created to help teams create alignment. It can also be helpful in a 1:1 conversation. It’s called Benefits, Concerns, and Suggestions. Think of it like a pro-con list on steroids!

Just a reminder, alignment is different from agreement.

When you align with someone, you find that while this may or may not be your first choice, you believe that the decision is reasonable, given all the givens, and that you’ll stand behind it as you leave the conversation. This requires that you believe it’s good enough to create success and that you don’t leave the room and bad mouth what you’ve aligned behind.

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To use this Benefits, Concerns, and Suggestions framework, each of you should first take a few minutes to ensure that you’re addressing the same problem or decision. 

  1. Use sticky notes, index cards, or small squares of paper for this process. We prefer sticky notes so that we can easily hang up all of our notes to see them more objectively.
  2. Decide whose perspective you’re going to work with first, and have that person share their approach to solving the problem or the decision they’d recommend and why. Listen closely, make some notes, and remain open to their perspective.
  3. Then, you will each think and write down the answers to these questions:
    • What do you see as the benefits of this idea as it was described?
    • What concerns do you have about this idea as it was described?
    • What suggestions do you have to enhance or refine this idea?
  4. Once you’ve each written down your thoughts, read and lay them out on the table or hang them up in their appropriate category (benefits, concerns, or suggestions).
  5. Listen deeply and remain curious to each person’s thoughts. Do not judge, criticize, or debate at this point.
  6. Now have the second person share their approach to solving the problem or decision they’d recommend and why. Remember to listen closely, make some notes, and remain open to their perspective.
  7. Repeat steps 3-5.
  8. Finally, take a moment to write down the approach you would suggest, now that you’ve heard one another’s perspectives and walked through this exercise. Share your current thinking with each other.
    • If there’s an obvious way you can immediately see a path forward that you both agree to, that’s great!
    • If there isn’t a solution that you agree upon yet, continue to discuss options and possibilities until you get to a solution that works for both of you.
    • If you’re at a stalemate, think about adding 1-2 additional people into the conversation, whom you both respect.

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Try out this framework and see if it will help you come to a decision that feel successful for both of you.

Let us know how it goes!

If you’d like support in developing your communication skills,
contact us today.