At some point in time in our professional and personal lives, we have all have to tackle a difficult conversation. These could be with a junior on performance, a client on non-delivery or mother-in-law on expectations. It is seen that most of us dread these conversations and at best avoid them as much as possible.
However, avoiding tough conversations is not an option, so the next best thing to do when faced with this challenge is to be prepared to tackle it head on at the appropriate time.
The number one rule is to ‘prepare’ for a difficult conversation versus tackling it spontaneously. Set a clear context and remain objective both while preparing and executing. For this to be possible you need to unload your emotional baggage and visualise a mutually better outcome.
Here is a step-by-step approach:
Table the issue in a calm, polite and firm voice.
Allow the other person to put his or her views first. Listen for details and do not interrupt because by listening closely you have a better chance of being able to understand the problem versus the symptoms.
Do not respond in a hurry. Take a deep breath, be calm and think through what you are going to say. In tough conversations the choice of words is critical and the outcome will be influenced by the same. Choose words which are specific and relevant and use the right tone to express them. It is important to keep your voice and posture calm.
Show empathy and understanding to the other person’s point of view. Genuine listening and an empathetic viewpoint of, ‘yes I understand’ can ensure that the issue on hand is handled as an event, which may not impact the relationship at a personal level.
Once you have listened to facts and details, it is time to be direct and focused and to explore options for solutions by enquirying and brainstorming. Be open to new ideas and do not get stuck to solutions you may have come prepared with. Be flexible and explore more sustainable alternatives. Do not be in a hurry to close the conversation on the first acceptable solution. Continue to drill, by taking the solution and further improvising around it.
Finally, thank the other party (offender or offended) and close on an attitude of partnership.
Tatva is a leadership development company focusing on Diversity & Inclusion, executive coaching and leadership development. The company’s focus is on developing the women’s leadership pipeline within organisations. Aligning to its name, Tatvã – a Sanskrit word which means the core / essence – the company’s offerings are wholistic, integrating the different polarities of life.