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Managing Difficult Conversations at Work


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About Mel Myers BSc(Hons) MEd AFBPsS CPsychol

Qualifications
I have an honours degree in Experimental Psychology (BSc Hons) and a Masters degree in Educational Psychology(MEd). I am an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPsS), a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) and a founder member of the British Psychological Society Special Interest Group in Coaching Psychology.
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Background
Before I trained as a psychologist, I spent eight years in industry working in both a small (about two hundred employees) textiles factory as an apprentice textile chemist, and a large (about two thousand employees) plastics factory where I worked as a laboratory assistant doing routine testing of raw materials.

My role put me in contact with staff across the hierarchy, and I noticed the problems that people had - regardless of their experience or their seniority in the organisation - in communicating with each other, and the associated difficult working relationships that were rife in both settings. These showed themselves in the way that people made negative comments about other sections, about their line managers or about the people they managed; in the way that people quietly sabotaged attempts to make them work in a certain way; in the way that people felt themselves to be unimportant and unrespected in the organisation and in the many associated arguments and stand-offs.

I felt compassion for people, for the stress, sometimes very serious, that they experienced. But, as the same sort of thing happened in both factories, I accepted - at that time - that these sorts of problems were simply part of life at work. That the background noise of bitterness and acrimony was something that you couldn't do anything about.

Years later, when I worked as a teacher and as an educational psychologist, I noticed similar problems in schools, colleges and universities, as well as in the families (from a very wide range of backgrounds) of the children and young people I worked with. While the general wellbeing of people varied with income and related factors, the type of interpersonal communication problem seemed to be the same; people seemed to be trapped in an ineffective way of talking to each other; they seemed, endlessly, to be having the same sort of disagreements without ever being able to move from fixed positions and they seemed unable to discuss important and sensitive issues so that even the most well-adjusted and otherwise competent people appeared to be unable to respond effectively to the difficult conversations and interpersonal situations they encountered.
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The development of 'Coaching in People Problems'
My professional interest, as a psychologist, in these problems began when I was in the School of Education at Birmingham University (UK). For about seven years I was responsible for the continuing professional development of my field colleagues and, in this context, I worked with colleagues to develop new approaches that would be helpful to them in their daily work. One of these approaches, called Increasing Personal and Professional Effectiveness, was based on the work of Harvard professor Chris Argyris, and enabled people to do two important bits of learning: first it enabled them to discover what it was about the way that they currently dealt with people problems that made their conversations difficult. Second, it offered people an alternative way of having conversations. This alternative was so much more effective, that what had historically been very difficult for them became much more do-able and positive in that they now were able to say whatever it was they needed to say to (or to hear from) the other person while still maintaining an OK relationship with that person.

I have spent the last twenty years teaching, researching and developing this approach (which my colleagues and I call Open Conversation and which forms the basis for Coaching in People Problems). I have worked with over four hundred practitioners, either through training courses or through consultancy, as well as with individuals who were having people problems in their personal, family or social lives. My finding is that what I call 'people problems' is widespread and severe and can be very stressful. Most of the people who I've worked with felt like I did when I first observed the problem. They felt that, although the problem was severe and even disabling for them, there was nothing that they could do about it.

I am delighted - both personally and professionally - to be able to offer Coaching in People Problems as a well-researched approach with a longstanding record of effectiveness to help with what I know can be a difficulty for all of us. You can find out more about how I work with you , the sort of difficulty I can help with and how to arrange over-the-phone coaching sessions with me. Do feel free to contact me if there are any questions you have or if you wish to clarify anything about the approach that I offer.
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