Having Difficult Conversations

Having Difficult Conversations

No one likes confrontation. When dealing with conflict, we adopt a fight or flight response: we stay or we go. However, another approach is to freeze or to avoid the situation altogether. This is not helpful for building relationships and working harmoniously with others. Moreover, when we hold onto words that need to be said, this can build resentment. Resentments can fester. Next thing we know, the issue snowballs and may become even more difficult to approach or resolve.

Follow these tips for having a difficult conversation:

  1. First, think about the situation and how you feel about it. It’s usually a good idea to sit with the challenge for a day or so in order to formulate your thoughts.
  2. Go straight to the source, rather than speaking with others and starting a grapevine or a he said-she said scenario.
  3. Ensure the right time and place – create a safe space to speak with the other person.
  4. Be diplomatic – Explain to the other person that you’d like to speak with them about something important to you.
  5. Keep your language in the “I” or use “I-messages”: This is what I see, how I feel, I notice/observe. Be clear.
  6. Explain the consequences of this behavior/situation for you and how it makes you feel, or impacts you and your job. Then tell the other person what you need.
  7. Apply active listening skills: acknowledging, paraphrasing, reflecting feelings and showing empathy.
  8. Work towards a common solution – Ask the other person how they wish to resolve the issue. It is not about imposing our will on another person but rather, working together for a win-win and towards a common goal.

Always end on a positive note. Let the other person know that they can come to you any time to discuss an issue. Be open and keep lines of communication open–this builds harmonious relationships!

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