Difficult conversations tin

Find out How to Have Difficult Conversations:

Virtually everyone you meet has been faced, at some point, with the seemingly insurmountable task of how to have a difficult conversation. It is a cruel fact of life that you will sometimes need to broach a tricky topic with either a colleague, a friend or family member. Being able to handle the situation with diplomacy and ease could mean a deal is saved, a friendship cemented and a relationship strengthened. For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on issues in the work environment, but you may find the techniques which work in diffusing a sensitive work issue will also work in your personal life.

What constitutes a difficult conversation? The definition of such a conversation is one which is likely to be uncomfortable for you or the other party, one where emotions could cloud the issue. It could be a talk that you’ve been putting off, or one where you know you should speak to someone but you don’t for a variety of reasons. It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant situations, so if you’ve put off having a difficult conversation, then don’t feel bad – you’re acting completely normal.

In the excellent Failure to Communicate by Holly Weeks, she writes that tricky and emotion-filled conversations at work are ‘so loaded with anger, confusion, and fear that most people handle them poorly: they avoid them, clamp down, or give in.’ There are many instances which you may have a bad experience with this sort of conversation, and so naturally you would avoid putting yourself in that situation again. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of the manager’s wrath when explaining why a project has missed the deadline, or faced with tears from an employee who’s been reprimanded. Perhaps your experience is more in line with telling an important customer that the price originally quoted has now changed. It won’t matter to him that it’s out of your hands; all that matters to the client is that you messed up his order, and so he’s unleashed seven kinds of fury upon you.

Learn Better Ways to Approach Difficult Conversations

Instead of feeling bad, continuing to avoid the subject, or moving to the Outer Hebrides, we can give you the ability to manage difficult conversations with confidence and tact. With our unique sticky learning training method you will learn how to discuss what matters most & will feel confident in approaching such encounters in future and be able to use this for the long term.

When facing how to have difficult conversations, there are some techniques which can help. Most importantly is your mind-set: if you go into the meeting expecting it to be difficult, then it probably will be. Instead, try thinking about it in a more positive light, focussing on the positive outcome you desire, and hold that image in your mind. We are all made of energy and the emotions we send out can be likened to ripples in a pond. The anxious negative energy you give out will eventually hit the ‘other side of the pond’ and ripple right back to you. See how the outcome differs when you go into a potentially difficult conversation with a positive attitude. It is also helpful to try to discern where your counterpart is coming from mentally. If you can put yourself in their shoes, then you may be able to find some common ground, which could lead to an easier conversation. Aim for a win/win rather than a win/lose outcome.

Post it note with word written on it on a man's head

One of the tools from our Influencing with Impact training course is ‘word on head’. Which word will you have on your head when you approach a difficult conversation?

How to Have Difficult Conversations

You are more likely to react in the way you’ve always done if you are caught off-guard. Knowing there are better ways to handle these sorts of situations is great, and finding out how to manage difficult conversations is even better. You may possess many of the attributes we touch on in this training course, but may not have considered utilising them in a potential conflict situation. We all use body language, tone of voice and trigger words every day – wouldn’t you like to know that these tools were being used to their best advantage?

In reality, no one wants to raise sticky issues at work, but if you’d like advice on how to have difficult conversations with employees, then we can help. As mentioned earlier, you may well find that the techniques work throughout all areas of your life, providing an ultimate skill set for dealing with whatever life throws your way.

To understand which topics we cover on the Conflict Management training course please contact us.

For further information, you can find our our Ultimate Guide to Conflict Resolution Skills here.

What is your top tip for how to have difficult conversations? Please share your top tip by commenting below.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets and Suppliers for over 20 years. He began his career as a buyer at one of the big 4 UK supermarkets and after rising through the ranks he decided to leave after 13 years and set-up Making Business Matter. For the last 14 years he has run MBM, which is a training provider to the UK grocery industry. Helping suppliers to the big four supermarkets to develop the soft skills that will secure them more profitable wins.

3 Comments

  • Holly Langford says:

    Difficult conversations are always going to happen and with this I feel like I could cope better. Especially with the idea of going into the positive attitude, and no anxiety. I have always found this hard but I now accept how it could come back and bite me on the bum. So I will bare me in mind in future!

  • Abi Crocker says:

    Really helpful for coping and handling the inevitable conversations which are uncomfortable or difficult for one or both parties. I think going in with all the relevant facts and information is key, as sometimes the details can be the difficult parts.

  • Reiss Kershi-Hussain says:

    No one likes having difficult conversations, but if you have all the tools and all the relevant knowledge then it makes them so much more bearable. I feel this article has been very helpful in pointing me in the right direction to know what to do to improve my ability to handle these conversations.

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