10 Tips to Deal with Difficult Conversations

Are you one of those Managers that doesn´t like to perform difficult conversations? Why is it so hard to go into the difficult discussions? Are you nervous before you start the conversation? Do you feel uncomfortable? Well, feel reassured, you´re not alone!

Performing the difficult conversation is one of the most challenging task a manager does. Typically, our emotions disturb the normal function of the brain and puts us back to a pure biological response like fight, flight and freeze. Being a manager might be tough and is not always a popularity job. In order to better control your emotions, you can use the following tips to facilitate the conversation:

1. Have a clear content
As a manager you know that it is important to have a vision for the business. In the same way, it is important to have a clear vision of where you want the conversation to go. You have to know how you want to start the conversation. In addition, you have to know how you want to convey the message to ensure the conversation is a success.

2. Be prepared!!
Too often, the important conversations are delayed and not prioritized – and the conversation suffers from the last minute syndrome. In order ensure the conversation is smooth it is critical to prepare. Train to open the conversation and repeat your message upfront makes it much easier when you are in the conversation.

3. Find the point of view
In order to be prepared for the difficult conversation, it is wise to try to understand the point of view of the other person before you enter the conversation. What is his/her position about the subject? How would he/she analyse the facts? Getting to understand the point of view of the other person will most likely improve the outcome of the conversation.

4. Choose the right place
Make sure you can be undisturbed while you are having the conversation. The best is to have a room with a small round table in order to ease up the setting….it is always rather awkward to sit in a board room with a lot of distance!

5. A purpose based conversation
Open ended questions facilitates the conversation flow. Make sure you stick to the facts throughout the conversation (and they should be neutral!). Make it a purpose based conversation by finding the crossing point between his/her point of view and your own point of view. Just like in negotiations, a good outcome of the conversation would be to find the common interests.

6. Allow silence
Silence makes us uncomfortable. Too often we get nervous about the silence and we tend to answer our own questions. Let the other person the time to answer your questions and to reflect on what you are saying. Welcome the silence!

7. Be honest and keep your integrity
To get a positive outcome, you have to dare to be honest. Dare to go to the essence that you prepared for and stick to you plan. Stick to the facts and do not discuss for the sake of discussing!

8. Eye contact and respect
Show your honest interest in what the person is expressing by keeping eye contact. You might not agree, but you have to remain polite. Treat the person like you would have liked others to treat you. Stay human and act with heart!

9. Allow feelings
All people have feelings – allow them to be present in the conversation whenever needed. You have to be able to separate your feelings from the other person´s feelings. It might be anger and it might be tears. A good advice is to always have Kleenex available – and again, allow the silence!

10. Follow up
Remember to follow up the conversation. It might have been a tough conversation with a lot of emotions. It is important to follow up to get a proper conclusion.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King

Re-written this becomes: ”The Manager´s job begin to end the day he/she becomes silent about what matters”…and if you do not dare to go into the difficult conversation, what you resist persists.

So, go ahead – prepare for the conversation and enter it with an open mind – it might become a pleasant conversation after all!

Good luck with making room for good conversations!

@Grete