Approaching difficult conversations at work

Difficult conversations are apart of every aspect of life, including work. Employers and employees all face having to initiate difficult discussions at some point during their working life and avoiding these conversations can increase the potential for issues in the workplace or in extreme cases, legal claims.

Sensitive topics may initially be uncomfortable to approach but they can end up being important learning experiences for everyone involved. Addressing issues head on can allow people to work better together, understand different perspectives, practice empathy, and grow as individuals. As this is easier said than done, here a few ways you can prepare for a difficult conversation in the workplace.

Prepare:
Going into a difficult conversation prepared can help you cover the areas ou wish to discuss and possible solutions you can present. This will help you present issues in a calm and positive way. Before approaching the conversation, ask yourself questions like;

  • What is the purpose of the conversation? Establishing to yourself what you wish to achieve can help you direct the conversation to an outcome.
  • What attitude are you going to have? Depending on what outcome you are looking for will dictate what mood to enter the conversation in. Going in with a heated or negative stance will intimidate the person you are talking to whereas a gentler attitude will encourage conversation.

While planning can help you prepare for a difficult discussion, completely scripting your interaction can often create a disadvantage for you. Overly prepared responses can appear disingenuous, instead, prepare questions that can elicit discussion.

Listen:
The point of difficult conversations is to resolve an issue that is affecting the workplace. Listening to the person you are discussing this with is the first step to fixing the problem. Communication in the workplace needs to go both ways for a cohesive environment so listening to the other persons’ point of view or suggestions will reflect positively on you and the situation.

Solve:
Don’t leave a difficult conversation unresolved. This will only mean having to revisit the same issue at a later point, only this time everyone involved will have preconceived ideas of how the discussion will go and the lack of outcome. Having a clear plan moving forward helps ensure accountability and acts as a reference should something arise again.

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