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We Need to Talk ...

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“We need to talk … ” Are there four more ominous words in the English language than, We need to talk … ? If so, I’m hard pressed to tell you what they are.

And, in addition to the singular dread of being engaged by someone else in this kind of conversation, many of us dread initiating them—putting up instead with babysitters who put our kids to bed clutching candy bars, painters who leave a trail of “decorator white” across our living room floors, or plumbers who always seem to leave one faucet dripping.

How, then, can you convey this difficult feedback?

The first thing to remember is, they work for you. Although it seems to be human nature to feel guilty about having these conversations, the fact remains that this person has been hired to perform a service on your behalf, and so, giving them the feedback to help them perform this service better isn’t really so terrible. In fact, it enables them to go out into the world and perform better for others—also not so terrible.

The second thing to remember is, again, that they work for you. But this time it’s in the context of: they got up this morning at heaven knows what hour, traveled however great a distance necessary to get to you on time, left their own kids, parents, or money problems at home, and are there working to make your life easier.

Given this, I recommend beginning these conversations with what they are doing well. For example, should you have a babysitter who’s always on time, and completely trustworthy, but who inevitably leaves your house, and your child, covered in finger paint, begin with, “I so appreciate knowing I can count on you. It really gives me a lot of peace of mind. I do, however, have one request: I need you to make sure you’ve got all the paint off of Joey, and Joey’s room, at the end of the day.”

Validating what’s been done correctly before requesting that changes be made, makes it far easier for the person to not only grant your request, but to do so resentment-free.


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