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The Stages of Interaction: the Communicate – Facilitate – Negotiate Process

 The Communicate/Facilitate/Negotiate Interactional Process

There are four stages, a leader or anyone for that matter, goes through when she finds herself in a difficult conversation.

Each stage is part of a progression and hopefully the leader will know what to do to be able to end the discord right there, before things escalate.

These stages tend to happen sequentially, depending on each party’s reaction to the other person’s previous comment(s).

Remember corollary nine from the Law of Reciprocity (in several of my books actually; buy one) which says “When we recall a conflict, the recollection is usually a skewed rendering of the incident in question which says more about how we feel now and our mutual history than about what actually happened then.”

Having said that, each stage represents a deepening rift between the two parties but also a specific type of power you can use to diffuse or resolve the onrushing argument.

You can see this progression in the table below:


The Power and Communication Process



Automobile Analogy

You can see in the automobile analogy above, we normally, 80% of the time, (unless we have a bad history with the other person) start the conversation with the relative ease of being in “Cruise Control”.

In other words, everything and everybody is doing fine.

If we do not know what to do, the situation can or will accelerate or escalate to the next stage and if we are not careful we end up in column or stage four, a “Head on Collision”.

When or as the situation becomes more difficult, (I call this first sign of dissonance, hitting a “Speed Bump), the savvy leader needs to know how to move from Communication in column one to Facilitation in column two.

In other words, when we “Hit a Speed Bump”, the beginnings of a mild disagreement, we need to know to how to speak with the target person to resolve the issue but in a manner such that they take you where you would like them to go.

Facilitating a “Speed Bump” means that not only the “What”, the outcome is mutually beneficial for both parties but the “How”, the conversation itself is elegant,  respectful and insightful.

This process of course, highlights and is predicated on the principle that our mindset and language must be well chosen and circumspect.

You will hear this often from me, but it is true nonetheless, that “language determines the conversation, the conversation, determines the relationship and the relationship determines the outcome.”





There are Four Stages in the Interactional Process

To address your issue effectively, you will need to focus on the second column, how to communicate with someone when or as the situation becomes more difficult.

And the way to do that is to know which stage in the communication process you are in and what is the language that particular stage requires in that moment.

In the analogy on the chart below, I call the more difficult situation, after the relative ease of being in “Cruise Control”, hitting a “Speed Bump.”

Note the four stages and how like two intertwining strands of a rope, power and communication are as one.

1. Cruise Control:

The Power to Communicate (The Experience You Want and Need)


2. Speed Bump:

The Power to Facilitate (The Cooperation You Want and Need)


3. Wall:

The Power to Negotiate (The Specific Behaviors You Want and Need)


4. Head on Collision:

The Power to Designate the Relationship (Roles, Goals & Responsibilities) You Want & Need


The Interactional Process: When we “Hit a Speed Bump” we Consciously move from Communicate Mode to the Facilitate Mode



Facilitation for Speed Bump Moments: Stressful Encounters


 As noted in the diagram above, the communication processes I am suggesting to you are primarily designed for stressful encounters, that is, moments of disconnect that people experience with each other because of conflict.


I Refer to These Moments of Disconnect as “Speed Bumps”

They are irritants that disrupt the communication and feeling of connectedness that people desire in their relationship.

The normal communication that occurs when stress between people is not present in the relationship is characterized as being in “Cruise Control.”

The facilitation method I propose is not necessary when people are in “Cruise Control”, but can be helpful to maintaining a healthy and cooperative state of mind with each other and prevent possible conflict, when people hit another “Speed Bump.”

Our conversational styles demand different strategies and thus requires distinct and specific interactional language.

The failure to understand people’s particular preference and to not “speak their specific language” is an all too common communication problem.

The question becomes of course, how we do that.

To answer that question we must understand, what makes people (including me) do what they do.

And then, what can we do about it.


 Facilitative Communication:



It is very important that we know what is meant by facilitation and even more so, when we Hit a Speed Bump, how to use facilitative language, that is to say Language that appreciates and incorporates the filter of the person whose cooperation you need into the conversation.


By Facilitative Communication I Mean:

We know that we have communicated when we hear our thoughts, feelings and ideas coming out of the other person’s mouth that is the words we initially wanted to say.

They will tell you what you had wanted to tell them.

They, then take you where you want them to go.

In other words, communication is the reaction that you get.

If we tell the target person that they need to do better or whatever, they will of course immediately react defensively and think or tell us that we are the problem, not them.

Instead use facilitative language that helps them to “think about what they think”.

They will more likely then acknowledge that they “probably could have done better or whatever”.

They will then see of course their admission as the acknowledgement of a wise, circumspect, judicious, mature and fantastic human being.

All the same, please keep in mind, communication is not an exact “Science” that will make things perfect but “Artistry” such that relative to your current situation, it will make things better.

In the next article we will detail the two of the most common and powerful neurological filters that people use to make decisions; the “Thinker – Feeler” disparity.

In order to be a powerful and fully orbed leader, the modern-day executive needs to know these two neurological distinctions that exist in everybody’s brain, and what to do about them.

By the way, have I yet mentioned that these two disparities started in us when we were an eight week old fetus in our mother’s womb and stay with us until the day we draw our last breath.

The point is that these conversational or personality styles are very real and it is a wise leader indeed who knows how to leverage and facilitate these differences.

There is of course much more to this rather complex issue but knowing which stage the conversation is in and what to do to facilitate the other person’s needs and style is a very good first step.

So good luck; I trust this has been helpful to you.

For more on this topic, we recommend the following


Execute Your Communication
Skills or They Will Die

The Key to Superior Personal and
Professional Communication

Click Here For Video and Full Description


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