At some stage during our careers we all need to have difficult conversations. You know the type. The ones that make your stomach lurch and have you wanting to do everything but have that talk.
It could be dealing with a customer complaint, providing negative feedback to a team member or letting someone know their employment has been terminated.
Whatever the conversation is, they all involve an element of risk. They are often scary and rarely easy but always necessary.
But our innate biological instinct to avoid pain and discomfort – along with the fast paced, high pressures of work – often have us avoiding these types of conversations. This occurs despite the fact such issues in need of discussion can potentially worsen if they go unaddressed.
Avoiding such conversations can also put your reputation with your team or clients on the line. If issues are left to fester, your team will start to question your effectiveness and your commitment to tackle the difficult issues. Courageous conversations provide you with a clear pathway to building relationships and growing your influence. They also allow you to set clear expectations and standards with your team.
Now is time to stop procrastinating and make the conversation happen.
The following tips will help guide you to achieving an optimal result.
- Manage your emotions. Difficult conversations can often be emotionally charged. By remaining calm and in control of your emotional energy you will set the tone for the meeting. Emotions are highly contagious. Your power lies in your ability to remain grounded and focused on the outcome. Don’t let the behavior of others be an excuse for yours.
- Seek a common goal. Take the time at the beginning of the conversation to clarify the higher common purpose or goal. Often we are striving for the same goal but conflict arises when we differ in the approach, standards or expectations. By clarifying that you are actually seeking the same common goal will diffuse some of the tension right from the outset.
- Separate story from fact. The story is often super charged with emotion. Clarify your opinion while respecting the others point of view. Address behaviours not the person. Avoid pointing fingers, blaming or making vague accusations.
- Listen to understand. Avoid the temptation to do all the talking and race straight to solution mode. Resist making assumptions and come from a place of genuine curiosity and a desire to understand the other person’s point of view. Step into their shoes for a moment to see the situation from their perspective. Listen and acknowledge where they are coming from before sharing your views on the situation. As Stephen Covey says in his book 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
- Be future focused. Stay focused on a working towards an agreeable outcome and what needs to change or improve. Set clear expectations and document agreements on what each party commits to do.
- Speak powerfully. The way you convey your message is important. Speak with confidence and certainty. Neuroscience has proven that powerful, positive language has a profound impact on our own and others behaviours and outcomes. If you don¹t yet feel confidents. act as if you are and over time you will be! For more about building on confidence check this out.
- Prepare and practice. Difficult conversations are just that: difficult. They require practice. They do get easier and you will become more effective with practice. Ensure you take the time to prepare, getting clear on the outcome you wish to achieve and setting yourself up for success with a sense of calm and certainty.
Whatever your profession, position or level of experience, it is inevitable that you will come across the need to have difficult conversations that require you to be courageous, step out of your comfort zone and take a risk to address the issue. Keep in mind what is at stake. If you stay silent and tiptoe around the issue your reputation, team moral, trust, relationships and organisational results are on the line.
By taking action and addressing issues as they come up you will build your influence, your impact and your career success. One conversation at a time. So be bold, listen bravely and believe that you can.
If you would like to know more about how to approach difficult conversations with confidence then you might like to check out this program.