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7 tips for handling difficult conversations

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Difficult conversations can be challenging, but they are an important part of effective communication, problem-solving and client care.

Read the 7 tips for handling difficult conversations or watch the video:

1. Prepare in advance: Before the conversation, take some time to prepare your thoughts and consider the other person's perspective. This can help you to communicate your message clearly and empathetically.

2. Frame the conversation: Let the other person know your purpose and intent for holding the conversation. Choose a time and a private space to have the conversation without interruptions. Avoid having difficult conversations in public or in front of other people. Be mindful of your own state of mind and ensure you have the mental capacity to navigate the discussion with care for yourself and the other party.

3. Feedback: When giving feedback start the conversation by discussing the situation, the behaviour observed and then the impact of this behaviour. Seek their perspective on the situation and behaviour. Discuss the impact if such behaviour continues. This method of communication requires preparation and the use of relevant and timely examples. This approach helps keep the conversation on the behaviour and not the person and can lead to discussing solutions.

4. Listen actively: By listening actively to the other person's perspective you can more easily find common ground and work towards a resolution. As you listen, be curious about their point of view, express empathy and understanding towards the other person's feelings and perspective. This can help to build trust, rapport and common ground, moving the discussion towards a resolution.

5. Stay calm: Stay calm and composed during the conversation, even if the other person becomes upset or angry. Take a deep breath and try to remain focused on the issue at hand. Apply the concept of an emotional buffer, where you can process the conversation with the intent of considering your responses, rather than reacting.

6. Focus on solutions: Focus on finding solutions rather than placing blame or dwelling on the past. Identify actionable steps that both parties can take to move forward.

7. Follow up: After the conversation, follow up with the other person to ensure that both parties are on the same page and to provide support if needed.

Remember, difficult conversations can be uncomfortable, but they are an important part of effective communication and problem-solving. Act quickly so things don't fester. The earlier you have the conversation the easier it is to resolve.

This approach works with colleagues, managers, and employee. By following these steps, you are giving yourself the best chance of having a constructive conversation and demonstrating your commitment to creating & maintaining psychological safety for your team.

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