Difficult conversations at work

At times, we are all faced with conversations that are difficult, but important. These can take place in our personal lives with our families and friends and also in the workplace with our colleagues. Few people like confrontation.

We fear these conversations as we don’t want to create hostility within our space, but they’re essential if we’re to foster enduring and authentic relationships.

There are three possible outcomes when faced with a difficult conversation. We can react by biting back and being controlled by emotion; we can respond, simmering our emotions and being more constructive or we can resolve. Resolution is the preferred outcome as it is the most constructive and sustainable choice where all parties feel like they win.

To help facilitate resolution, it is important to ensure that a safe environment is created in which those involved feel respected. Open the conversation by showing interest in the other person and be present. Lead those involved into sharing their opinion and create dialogue around it, discussing instead of disagreeing. Negativity will usually be met with more negativity. The same applies for positivity so strive for this in your communications.

‘Avoidant communication’ is where we attempt a difficult conversation but are so worried about the reaction that we deliver our message poorly with an unsuccessful outcome.

Here’s five rules that can help us to ensure this situation is avoided:

1. Make sure everything you say is accurate and backed up by facts
2. Make sure to check accuracy of information ahead of time
3. Avoid unnecessary repetitions and expanding with more and more adjectives, to prevent lack of accuracy.
4. Practice ahead of time, many times, as preparation for your meeting
5. Be prepared and calm to receive feedback from the recipient. Try not only conveying messages but also to be an attentive recipient yourself.

For those in management positions, these conversations will no doubt be a constant occurrence. Managers not only need to challenge their staff and the way they approach various jobs, but also support them in successfully implementing the change. Place importance back on the art of conversation and face the fear of the difficult ones.
Source: This is an edited extract from ‘Tough Talkin’: Difficult conversations at work’, available from AFA Care and Benestar at https://benestar.com/. For more information about accessing AFA Care resources available at Benestar please visit https://www.afa.asn.au/afa-care