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Difficult conversations. The prospect conjures apprehensions, no matter who it is. Conversation failures can cost both the company and the employee time and ease of mind. The cost of avoiding difficult conversations increases over time. Morale, retention, and the bottom line are all affected over the long term. Not having difficult conversations impedes the growth of the company. The longer the problem continues, the rougher the emotional terrain is. To delay the inevitable increases the need for more professional conversational skills.

Build a practicing habit of open, transparent conversations. Temper them with compassion. Make sure they follow shortly after the behavioral incidents requiring correction. Make plans to have conversational responses ready. Consider responses preemptively and work toward the best outcomes. The guideline is to understand the intent of their behavior. Do not succumb to easy thoughts of shaming and blaming. Create opportunities for self-reflection in the conversation. Ask how things are going for them. The goal of these conversations is preventive measures. In turn, this helps avoid situations that cost trust, progress, time, and money.

While planning conversations, be mindful of your tone and body language. Track your emotional tendencies. The words used also have an impact on the direction of these elements. Know your emotional limits and triggers. Keep in mind your role and responsibilities. The location for the conversation is best in a neutral place, face-to-face. Avoid e-mails, as they are easy to misunderstand. Consider the timing of the conversation. Choose an ideal time when receptivity is higher.

While the challenging conversation is ongoing, if things seem too hot, take a recess. Maintain emotional awareness and watch for emotional triggers. Pace the conversation to ensure things remain steady. While moderating the pace, there is a better judgment of thoughts and words.

Start with I-statements, and share facts first. Next, share your thoughts. Give the other party the benefit of the doubt, always. There could be an unknown situation that has caused them difficulty. Ask questions to understand the other person. Work on clarifying their statements for mutual understanding. The tone of the conversation is one of mutual improvement.

The outcomes need to be agreed on by both parties. After the conversation, written confirmation helps to avoid confusion and prevent misunderstanding. Additionally, confirming demonstrates a constructive interaction that benefits everyone.