How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work Part 1

By Staff Writer

Part 1

Whether you’re telling a client the project is delayed or presiding over a troubled performance review, difficult conversations are an inevitable part of management. How do you find the right words when you are in the moment?  How can you manage the exchange so that it goes as smoothly as possible?

Change your mindset

When you know a “difficult” conversation is coming up, try “reframing” it in a positive way. Example, you are not giving negative performance feedback, you are having a constructive conversation about development.

Breathe

The more calm and centered you are, the better you will be at handling difficult conversations. Take regular breaks and practice mindful breathing. This will help you focus and give you capacity to absorb any blows that might come your way. Example, if a colleague comes to you with an issue that you know might lead to a hard conversation, excuse yourself, get a cup of coffee and collect your thoughts.

Plan the conversation; don’t read from a script 

Jot down notes and key points before your conversation. Know what you want to say.  Plan but be prepared to be flexible with your plan. Your language should be simple, clear, direct and neutral.

Acknowledge the other’s perspective 

Don’t go into the conversation with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. What is the problem? Express your interest. Listen to the other’s words and tone and take time to process it. Look for overlap between your point of view and the other person’s and paraphrase what you hear back to the other party.

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