Do You Avoid Difficult Conversations?

I don’t think I am much different from any other manager when it comes to having a difficult conversation with a staff member.  When it has to be done, it has to be done, there is no way to resolve the problem unless you confront and work through it with the person who is causing it.

Recently when I had to have one of these conversations one thing kept popping up in my mind: “remember when dealing with anyone, keep your words soft, kind but direct and to the point so there is no misunderstanding is what the issue is.”

When the time came for our talk, I knew that I could not control my coworker’s behavior, only my own during this conversation and I followed these 5 rules for positive confrontational conversations:

1. Stop and think before you speak so you can choose your words with care. You want to get your message across in a way that discourages defensiveness and arguments.

2. Be objective and use frank and factual, or descriptive phrases. Choose neutral and positive words.

3. Speak with a tone of voice that sounds sincere, wanting to solve the problem.

4. Frame your message carefully.  Make sure that you stay on track with the issue at hand and do not go off on random “bunny trails” bringing up non-pertinent information.

5. Listen with empathy and understanding so you can see things from the other person’s point of view.

The conversation went well and I think that we both have a better understanding of what needs to be corrected.

I did not leave the issue alone after this one conversation though.  I talked to my staff person later that week to see if everything was okay.  We talked about how we each understood what was said and agreed that we were headed on the right track to working better together.

Follow-up is very important since many times we would like to think that everything went well, but never ask to find out for sure and then are surprised when things go sour or resurface.

“Simply by changing your own behavior, you gain at least some influence over the problem.” ~ Douglas Stone, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

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