How to handle difficult conversations?

Aug 11, 2023


In all social groups, there will inevitably be challenging conversations that need to be addressed. Why does this happen? Simply because we are human beings. Whether it’s within a family, a group of friends, or at work, it’s always uncomfortable and tough topics are often avoided.


However, dealing with difficult conversations within a family or among friends is not as complicated as when it occurs in a working relationship. Whether it involves salary, someone’s time and effort, employees’ goals within companies, poor performance, or other complex issues, it can be difficult. According to a study by Bravely, a startup focused on career guidance, 70% of employees avoid difficult conversations in the workplace. This can decrease performance and create a toxic environment. In the worst-case scenario, relationships between individuals can worsen if not managed properly.


So, how can we encourage difficult conversations and learn to handle them eloquently? It is crucial to have an action plan in place for when they occur. This will help facilitate organic, natural, and positive feedback within the organization, promoting personal growth and development for both your company and your employees. Here are a few tips to help you take on these types of conversations:


  1. Don’t avoid the conversation: A difficult conversation can become even more challenging if left unaddressed. Such situations can generate anxiety as they tend to amplify in people’s minds. Make feedback a common practice and develop the habit of addressing problems as soon as they arise.


  1. Have a purpose: What would you like to achieve from the conversation? Diane Garza recommends writing down three things you intend to accomplish through this dialogue. By focusing on the root of the problem, you decrease the likelihood of losing control of the conversation.


  1. Be confident and direct: If you feel uncomfortable in the situation, it will be noticeable and make the situation itself uncomfortable. It is necessary to feel confident to seize opportunities. Whether you are asking for a raise or a promotion, take the initiative, approach the conversation with confidence, and speak concisely and clearly. You will obtain what you want if you ask for it.


  1. Be open to the other person’s feedback: The conversation should not be a monologue; it should be a dialogue, and it is essential to listen to the other person’s perspective. Listening allows the other person to know that you recognize their feelings regarding the matter. Being able to communicate effectively will help resolve the situation collaboratively.


  1. Be empathetic: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If the situation becomes complex and they struggle to express themselves, allow them to organize their thoughts and understand how they might feel. When aiming for a constructive conversation to resolve workplace conflicts, it is always important to consider the other person’s perspective.


  1. Focus on the facts: Before the conversation, have a clear understanding of what happened and concentrate on the facts. Try not to personalize the feedback as that can put the other person on the defensive.


  1. Think of solutions: The objective of having this conversation is to reach a resolution. If the solution is unclear from the beginning, work together to find one that both parties agree upon. Listen to their ideas if they have any and bring some of your own to the table as well. Once you agree, commit to the resolution and ensure a plan of action for the future.


A conversation can change the negative dynamics in a relationship and help establish better communication practices among your employees or superiors. It can even become part of the company’s culture itself.


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