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How To Handle Any Difficult Conversation

February 5, 2013

Difficult ConversationsYou’re about to engage in a difficult, yet crucial conversation – one where emotional tensions are high, you’re intent on proving a point, being right and prevailing.  Often times, there’s little warning.  You may suddenly find yourself in the middle of a response before you’ve properly assessed the situation.

When difficult conversations don’t happen, problems fester and leaders lose credibility.  Morale, productivity, and retention suffer. Don’t wait and hope problems will go away. But, before you say something you might regret down the road, respectfully put the conversation on hold.  Then, take the time to prepare mentally and emotionally so that you get the result you want and need.  If you don’t take these steps, you risk making the problem worse rather than moving it toward resolution.

Back off, cool down and come back at it later, after you’ve thought about two things:

  1. What you’re trying to communicate, and why.
  2. The other person’s core message and point of view?  Think through the value in their perspective – benefits or advantages that you, in the heat of the moment, were unable to see?  What’s the good, the logic and the reason that undergirds their point of view that disagreement may have blinded you to?

Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand.”  His timeless wisdom is well placed when you’re faced with a difficult conversation.

As a corporate facilitator, this is one of the many topics I help executive leadership navigate better.  My program “Constructive Conversations” offers seven practical strategies that lead to better problem solving through discussion.

Judy Ringer’s “Step by Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations” is also a great place to start if you’re in this situation.

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