Think of a conversation you may be putting off…

Do you feel stuck?  Are you holding back from having the conversation?  Maybe last time it didn’t go so well or you think it might make things worse.  Many of us will have experienced having a difficult conversation and perhaps some will have become quite anxious leading up to it.  Particularly in the world of work it is inevitable that you will have to have a difficult conversation with a manager, a colleague, or a member of your team at some point.

Some of the topics that come up in conversation with my clients include conflict in the workplace, personal issues, performance management, changes at work and giving difficult feedback.

Preparing for such a conversation can be key in your personal development and achieving the best possible outcome.

Here are my top tips…

Prepare – to prepare is key in terms of your expectations but don’t forget that any effective conversation is two ways, so do give the other person some notice as to what you would like to discuss or achieve. This will allow them to prepare appropriately and maximise the time you have whilst setting out clear expectations.  In asking for the meeting be curious to their opinions rather than telling them what you want to discuss.  Here are some questions to consider:

What is your purpose for having the conversation?

What do you want to achieve?

What would the ideal outcome look and feel like?

Fact v Feelings – this can be a tough one as we are often led by our feelings when faced with a challenging situation.  Take some time beforehand to gather the facts and separate your feelings.  Ask yourself if there is history that is triggering this feeling?  Maybe ask someone you trust for their opinion or hypothetically think how you would advise a friend in your situation. Write down how you are feeling and what is the best way to share your truth.  Map out your thoughts and it will become clearer.

Safe Space – making the space that of trust and respect will only encourage them to be part of your discussion.  Share with them that you are open to their opinions and thoughts. This can also help create a long-term space for feedback and on-going open engagement for when critical discussions are key at work.  Place yourself in their shoes as much as you can and consider where they may be seeing things from.  What assumptions are you making about the other person?  The environment in which we hold such conversations can also have an impact so consider where you meet with them – would an informal or mutual meeting place be helpful?  Give the other person time to share their thoughts first and actively listen to them rather than listen to reply.

Pause – how you begin the difficult conversation will allow you to stay in charge of yourself, so take some time to breath and focus on what you want to say.  Try a few minutes of mindfulness to calm down and find your pace and control which will also reflect on the other person too.

Take Action – aim to walk away with an action plan that is agreed by both parties where you have a clear pathway going forward.  Before the end of the meeting set up a “touch point” conversation to review progress and ensure both of you are still on the same page.  Leave your meeting with a warm and positive energy.

So, are you ready to hold the difficult conversation?  If it’s the first step you are stuck with, maybe this will help…

“I’d like to talk with you about…  I am curious to hear your thoughts about it, so can we meet….?”

This is of course just a introduction to the solution of tackling difficult conversations, so if you’d like to find out more about this, coaching will help you find clarity in what you want to achieve, we’ll explore the solutions to moving forward and of course I’ll be here to support you.