On Tuesday, October 10th, 2023, the Orange County Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI-OC) held its monthly dinner meeting in Irvine, CA. The highlight of the evening was the captivating presentation by Mervin Roxas, a retired Marine, Safety Consultant for SVT Strategy LLC. Roxas shared his wealth of knowledge on navigating challenging conversations in his keynote address, titled “Critical Conversations: A Crucial Ingredient to Success.” His insights and strategies provided valuable lessons for the attendees, making this event a memorable one.

Roxas structured his presentation into three integral parts, each aimed at equipping the audience with tools to engage in and manage critical conversations effectively.

Identifying Different Levels of Crisis and Appropriate Responses

In the first segment of his presentation, Roxas introduced the CPI Crisis Development Model, emphasizing the significance of matching the appropriate response to the individual’s behavior level. He outlined four crisis levels and their corresponding approaches:

  • 1. Crisis Level 1 (Anxiety): People at this level need support and understanding.
  • 2. Crisis Level 2 (Defensive): For those displaying defensiveness, a more directive approach is necessary.
  • 3. Crisis Level 3 (Risk Behavior): Individuals showing risk behavior require safety interventions.
  • 4. Crisis Level 4 (Tension Reduction): At this level, approach with therapeutic rapport to alleviate tension.

Understanding these crisis levels is fundamental in determining how to engage with someone in a critical conversation effectively. Roxas highlighted that misjudging the appropriate level of response can exacerbate the situation rather than resolve it.

Learning Effective Communication Strategies to De-Escalate and Positively Impact Your Interaction

Contributor: Sam Lee PMP, PSM
PMI-OC Photographer

The second part of Roxas’s presentation focused on the various components of effective communication during critical conversations. He emphasized that communication encompasses not only the words we use but also how we say them and our nonverbal cues. To ensure a successful outcome, it’s crucial to consider all three aspects simultaneously.

Roxas stressed the importance of approaching critical conversations with empathy and active listening. This involves not just the content of what is being said but also paying attention to the tone, pitch, and pacing of our voices, known as para-verbal communication. Being aware of this can make a substantial difference in how the conversation unfolds.

Developing a Framework to Re-establish the Relationship Post Critical Conversation

In the final part of the presentation, Roxas turned the spotlight on the aftermath of a critical conversation. He highlighted the critical step of re-establishing trust post-conversation, as neglecting this aspect may result in issues, such as the re-emergence of the initial issue in the future. Roxas provided a structured framework to accomplish this effectively. The steps include:

  • 1. Ask Questions: Seek to understand the other person’s perspective and feelings.
  • 2. Avoid Placing Blame: Refrain from assigning blame or judgment.
  • 3. Gain Understanding: Actively listen and empathize with the other person.
  • 4. Allow Pause for Reflection: Give both parties time to reflect on the conversation.
  • 5. Give Support and Encouragement: Offer emotional help.
  • 6. Reach an Agreement: Work collaboratively to find common ground and potential solutions.
  • 7. Observe the Feedback: Continuously assess and adjust the progress towards rebuilding trust.

Roxas’s framework serves as a valuable guide for resolving conflicts while preserving relationships and ensuring that both parties feel heard and respected.

When Conversations Don’t Go as Planned

Roxas acknowledged that despite using these valuable tools, there may be instances when critical conversations do not yield the desired outcomes. In such cases, he offered some sage advice:

  • 1. Don’t Burn Bridges: It’s essential not to sever relationships or make them acrimonious. Instead, maintain professionalism and respect.
  • 2. Don’t Make It Personal: Keep the focus on the issue at hand and avoid personal attacks or accusations.
  • 3. Remember, It’s a Small World: In the professional world, connections often overlap, and your reputation matters. Remaining respectful and professional is a wise choice.

Mervin Roxas’s presentation at the Orange County Chapter of PMI’s dinner meeting left attendees armed with a toolkit to approach critical conversations with confidence and effectiveness. Ultimately, the ability to handle critical conversations skillfully is a valuable asset in the world of project management and beyond.

Content Contributor: Roderick Conwi
Roderick Conwi PMP
Content Contributor of Freezepoints eMagazine Publications Team PMI Orange County
You May Also Like

Brewing Up Collaborative, High-Performing Teams

Speaker Bio Victor Bonacci, Coach, Trainer, and Podcast Host Victor Bonacci is a senior…

Embracing Disruption and Navigating the Agile Future

Insights from Francisco T. Avalos’ Presentation “Executing Digital Transformation Projects” On June…