Previously, I talked about ways that we tend to avoid, or at least not be honest with ourselves when dealing with difficult conversations. If you’ve taken the time to reflect how those situations came about and what a successful outcome to the conversation would look like, it’s time to have the conversation. Please keep in mind that not one size fits all – I am providing a scenario that I hope helps give you a start toward a solution. Coming to the realization that no one is fooled when the issue is not addressed allows us to actually start to solve the problem. If you have followed my line of questioning in Part I, either alone or with a coach, you have identified the conversation(s) or situation(s) you are avoiding. Perhaps you’ve learned that it’s driving poor behavior or affecting the culture of your team. A critical piece is to reflect on your contribution to the situation. In my experience, some of the reasons these conversations are avoided are because someone doesn’t want to hurt an individual’s feelings, or avoiding because they just don’t know how to approach the discussion or how to solve the situation. When you honestly look at the impact on anyone involved – either directly or indirectly – you understand that no one benefits from your silence.So, let’s focus now on having the conversation.
At this point, each conversation will be handled differently based on the situation; however, I will try to lay out a simple framework to keep you moving through the process.
- How do they best receive information – are they visual or auditory?
- What story do you need to convey, and how can you deliver your message with empathy
- Don’t be judgmental. This is a conversation, meaning two-way dialog. Keep in mind that you may have some culpability in the situation as well.
- As best you can, have the conversation in a neutral environment: a conference room or quiet area out of the way.
- Most importantly, be present and listen to what they say. Don’t multitask. As you are engaged in the conversation, you will be able to react and adapt to the needs of both.
The above is just a framework to start.If you conduct yourself in a non-judgmental manner and are responsive to their needs, the conversation should proceed in an amical manner. Obviously, the sensitivity and nature of the content as well as the ability for the individual to receive this information will drive how well the conversation goes. That said, if you remain objective, empathetic, and calm, you will set yourself up for the best outcome. Here’s a Difficult Conversation Tip Sheet to help you walk through the process.