Sandler provides an easy way to remember the five key components of getting a mutually beneficial conversation started: the simple mnemonic PLATE.
Think of it this way. To have a civilized dinner, you first put the food on the plate. The same is true for a civilized conversation. Get the mutual agreements on the PLATE, up-front, before you get started. Here’s how it breaks down.
Purpose of the conversation. Letting the other person know why you want to have the conversation is required. You can’t wait until time runs out and surprise them with a purpose of which they knew nothing. No mutual mystification. Be up front with why you want to engage in the conversation.
Limit the time. You must agree on the time limits of the conversation and live up to those agreements. If you need more time, set another mutual agreement as to how much more time is needed, when you will continue, and what else needs to be discussed. Of course, you could have agreed to more time in the beginning.
Agenda of their expectations means you discover what is important to them first. Even though it may be your desire to have the conversation, allow them to go first. Once you know what’s important to them, you might want to alter your approach.
Topics you want to include or exclude means you let the other person know your expectations of what to discuss or not discuss. And always get permission to ask questions so you can understand what is important to them. Get the truth on the table. Let them know exactly what you want to talk about and what you will be doing during the conversation, like asking questions. Once you understand Parent, Adult and Child Ego States, I like to add this question, “Can we both do our best to stay in Adult Ego State?” The tough conversations make if very easy to slip into Critical Parent or Rebellious Child Ego States.
Eventual goal or outcome at the end of the allotted time for the conversation. Share what you hope the outcome of the conversation will be. Perhaps it is resolution to a problem or it could be agreement on a plan of action. The point is to have a goal to go for in the conversation. (Right up front, in the beginning of the conversation, just making sure you know when to include this.) This will certainly help keep you on topic.