I don’t think anyone enjoys the tough conversations but we can’t avoid them. They come to us all, sometimes too frequently. We can have weeks where it seems we have to communicate with disengaged staff members, disgruntled suppliers and unhappy customers.
No matter how justified your point of view may be, these types of conversations can be tough going to deal with. You may feel a burning desire to avoid the issue, but that never pays off. You need to step up and face it head on. Left alone, an unspoken conversation can allow negativity to fester and grow. You may not be simply avoiding the issue, but allowing the negative aspects of what is happening to increase.
Facing the situation head on is not only in the best interests of whatever the problem is, it also speaks volumes about you as a leader and business owner. Others are observing your behaviour, if you’re not leading by example and addressing issues, they are going to form opinions about you that are not in your interests, or that of your team. They are also going to question if they can trust you to deal with challenging times and situations.
When you are faced with difficult encounters you are making a clear statement about yourself. What are you saying? It’s either going to be that you are strong and can deal with adversity or it will be something else. You get to choose just how others will see you.
If you choose to avoid, or become emotional or aggressive when conversations are difficult you can guarantee that your staff and those involved are going to question your strength as a leader. Nobody wants to follow someone who is either a loose cannon or too weak to face a challenge head on.
On the other hand, if you step up to unpleasant conversations and deal with them in a calm, rational manner, you will let others know just who you are and what is expected of them. You will be setting a great example.
Remember the following points when you are faced with those difficult conversations:
1. Remain Calm
The number one rule for any healthy communication is to remain calm. When you remain in control of your emotions you will not only set the tone of the conversation, you will increase the likelihood of being listened to and heard. An emotionally charged encounter is not conducive to open conversation, chances are the other person will either match your emotional outburst or withdraw completely. Both scenarios will have a negative impact.
2. Use Empathy
Recognising and taking into consideration how the other person is feeling will go a long way in keeping the conversation positive. You don’t need to agree with someone to understand where they are coming from. What using empathy does is to show respect and validate the other person. They are in turn likely to become more understanding of your point of view.
3. Let the other person speak
There is nothing worse than trying to have a difficult conversation with someone when you can’t get a word in edgewise. Be cognisant of how successfully you are allowing the other person to give you their point of view.
4. Listen carefully
Sometimes when we are in disagreement with another person and trying to give our point of view, we can see that they are busy thinking about their next response instead of listening to what we are saying. Be sure to give the other person the courtesy of being heard.
5. Stick to the Facts
It is easy to leap to make assumptions and leap to conclusions in regards to the other person’s take on a situation. Make a concerted effort to stick only to facts that you can clearly verify. If the other person begins to go off track, respectfully bring them back to the facts.
6. Aim for a positive encounter
The goal of any difficult conversation should be an outcome that has both people feeling okay with what has transpired. Calm, assertive communication can extend your point of view in such a way that the other person understands the greater goal behind the encounter.
There is no avoiding the occasional unpleasant conversation, they are par for the course in business. By calmly asserting yourself and incorporating the above tips you can do so in a professional manner. It’s not always possible that both parties will be pleased with the actual outcome, when you’re firing someone for example. However, you can have a difficult conversation without the other person feeling terrible about how they have been treated. You should be able to conduct yourself in a manner that leaves both parties feeling okay.