Navigating Difficult Conversations at Work

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Rebecca Stevens candidate-resources, blogs, Interview...

Dealing with conflict or tough conversations at work. It’s comparable to the ‘we need to talk’ dread all of us have undoubtedly faced at some point in our personal lives.

Whether it’s addressing distracting behaviours in the office, challenging your colleague on the accuracy of a report or confronting a long-overdue company problem – these conversations need to happen, and they need to happen for a few reasons:

-         The problem can’t be fixed if there is no awareness of the problem in the first place.

-         Get that weight off your shoulders, its liberating!

-         It’s how we achieve professional and personal growth – your company will benefit from this too. The art of conversation is like any art. With continued practice you will acquire skill and ease.

Finding the right words, and the right moment – it is no easy task in the fast-paced commercial world. Step 1) Conquer your fears and just do it.

Here are some tips to make the conversation easier…

Set a Positive Tone

-         Mindset matters. Frame the conversation in a different way and put a positive spin on it. Be constructive, not negative. Can you offer an alternative solution to the one currently on the table? Make sure there is an action plan in place when a consensus (or even just an understanding) is reached to ensure you move forward.

Keep Your Cool

-         Don’t forget to breathe! Taking this brief moment to focus on your breathing will allow you to refocus and absorb any information. It’s important that whether you are the recipient or provider of a challenging discussion, that you make a conscious effort to slow down the pace of the conversation, listen, collect your thoughts, and respond rationally.

Plan with Emotional Intelligence

-         Think ahead. What do you anticipate the response will be to the discussion? Put yourself in the shoes of your counterpart to mentally consider their possible responses. You can have some flexible strategies to hand on how to move the conversation forward in a productive way. If you don’t feel confident on the recipients view beforehand, ask them.

Be Concise and Direct

-         Difficult conversations need to be clear and to the point, otherwise the message gets lost in a muddled delivery. To avoid receiving objections, be prepared with concrete examples. Focus on facts, not feelings. Try not to let your emotions get the better of you when you are trying to find a resolution.

Make It a Conversation

-         Feedback shouldn’t be a monologue - there should be two-way communication. Make sure there is an opportunity for an open discussion and questions to allow the meeting to end with unwavering clarity on both sides. Do you fully understand each other and what will happen next?  

“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”- William Ellery Channing, American Theologian