How to make difficult conversations worse, as seen in The Sequence

Difficult conversations are a part of life, but many people don’t know how to have them. Whether it’s discussing a sensitive topic with a friend or confronting a co-worker about an issue at work, these conversations can be uncomfortable and even scary.

In various scenes from the most recent episode of the hit HBO show, “The Experiment.” succession, the heroes try to have a difficult conversation, but it seems that the air is thick with tension and suspicion. You may have been in similar situations before. you hesitate to speak openly because you fear your words will be used against you or misrepresented into something they are not. It’s like walking through a minefield, not knowing where the next explosion will come from.

Watching Roy make a series of common mistakes provides an opportunity to think about the right ways to have difficult conversations in real life.

They did not start from a foundation of trust.

Trust is the foundation needed for any difficult conversation. A lack of trust seems to be present in almost every family and business relationship featured in the show.

When trust is lacking, people are less willing to communicate honestly, and misunderstandings are more likely. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break out of. People without trust may also be unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, which leads to prolonged conflict and makes it even more difficult to find a solution.

Building trust requires vulnerability, honesty, and a shared goal of mutual understanding and respect. It’s not always easy, but it’s essential to effective communication and healthy relationships.

They tried to motivate through fear.

In the episode, Logan, the fierce patriarch of the Roy family, visits the ATN newsroom. He struts around in dark sunglasses and even hovers menacingly over an employee writing a letter before delivering a fiery speech on the ATN staff, a classic mix of withering humiliation and rah-rah encouragement. His words are laced with a burning desire to beat the competition, and he’s not afraid to call out those he feels aren’t pulling their weight.

Fear is a powerful emotion that can motivate people to act. But when used as a primary motivator, it has a detrimental effect on both individuals and organizations, as numerous studies have found. Being driven by fear creates a toxic work environment that erodes trust, stifles creativity and innovation, and leads to high turnover rates. Fear-based leaders tend to be controlling and judgmental, leaving little room for employees to use their own judgment or creativity. This can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased stress and anxiety, and even mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.

They avoided talking about hard truths.

In the episode, Logan’s assistant (and would-be girlfriend) Carrie submits an audition tape to become an ATN anchor. His terrible performance is obvious to anyone watching the tape, but no one wants to admit, or tell him, the truth. Tom is tasked with delivering this news to Carrie, and she cowardly hands it over to Greg, who delivers the message as badly as you’d imagine, blaming criticism from a non-existent focus group.

Greg gives Carrie the classic “feedback sandwich,” a technique where constructive feedback is sandwiched between two positive comments. Research has shown that this approach is ineffective because it dilutes the impact of constructive feedback and confuses the recipient, who often focuses on positive comments and misses important feedback or does not take it seriously. Additionally, a feedback sandwich can be perceived as insincere or manipulative, especially if the positive comments are not genuine or relevant to the feedback.

The feedback sandwich may seem like a kind and gentle approach to feedback, but it’s not the most efficient or effective way to help others improve their performance or behavior, or to take what you say seriously. Like Carrie, the recipient may end up doubting everything you’ve told them. And, as Greg’s discomfort makes clear, the feedback sandwich can create anxiety for the person giving the feedback, as they may struggle to find positive comments to change the feedback, leading to delays in providing critical feedback.

They apologized insincerely.

In the episode’s pivotal scene, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman are at a karaoke bar when their father unexpectedly shows up and tries to convince them to back him in his latest business deal. Amazingly, Logan appears to be offering an olive branch to his children in an attempt to make a personal connection and even apologize for his recent behavior; “Look, I’m not apologizing. But if it means so much to you, I’m sorry.”

Apologies are a powerful tool for repairing damaged relationships, rebuilding trust, and promoting forgiveness. Sincere forgiveness acknowledges and acknowledges the pain we have caused, reducing negative emotions such as anger and resentment. Apologies benefit both the apologist and the receiver by increasing empathy, forgiveness, and relationship satisfaction. In fact, research shows that apologizing can make us feel more authentic, promote personal growth, and increase our self-awareness.

Despite these benefits, we often avoid apologizing because we fear it will make us look weak or we think it won’t do any good. However, a well-executed apology can improve our relationship, leaving us better off than before the mistake was made. Even after a serious transgression, a genuine apology can increase trust and intimacy in a relationship.

When we apologize, it’s important to include some basic elements, such as expressing remorse, taking responsibility for our actions, and offering to make things right. It can also be helpful to explain our actions, admit wrongdoing, acknowledge the harm caused, promise to make changes, and apologize. A well-executed apology can go a long way in repairing damaged relationships and building stronger bonds based on honesty and accountability.

There are so many moments throughout the episode where the characters are faced with a difficult conversational choice and decide to avoid it. Such avoidance may seem like an easy way out in the moment, but it can be a recipe for disaster in the long run. When we avoid these conversations, we allow problems to fester and grow, and they can eventually become much bigger than they would have been had we addressed them early.

Additionally, avoiding difficult conversations can erode trust and confidence in our personal and professional relationships. This can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and ultimately, the breakdown of the relationship altogether. By having the courage to start and engage in difficult conversations, we can solve problems head-on, build stronger relationships based on trust and respect, and create more positive outcomes for all involved.

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