When reading the title of this article, there is no doubt that it sparked either an emotion or a name of that person we should be having a difficult conversation with. It is likely our reaction was one of hesitation or with an audible sigh. As leaders, difficult conversations come in many forms. Some of us consider a difficult conversation as one with a lot of negative emotion. Others may consider the difficult conversation as one with many tears. Regardless of what the definition may be, the important piece is to have them. Actions cannot change if we are not talking about them. Here are three tangible takeaways that can be used during our next difficult conversation.
• Prepare our thoughts: Most difficult conversations have emotions already built into it. When emotions are involved, it may be tough to think of all the points we would like to make. We may be persuaded by someone else’s emotions or decide our new purpose is to make someone stop crying. Write down the purpose and key points ahead of time. This will keep us on track and allow us to better guide the conversation to set clear expectations.
• Be Patient: By demonstrating patience, we are creating space for others to vent or process while allowing us time to strategically think of our next step. For some, and while it should never, conversations come as a surprise. For others, they may not care or see the purpose of what we are trying to tell them. Keep asking questions and showing the “why” of their actions.
• Follow up: Although this step may take place after the conversations, it is crucial. Following up shows that we are caring of the situation but also demonstrating that we are aware that change should be happening after the talk has taken place.
Difficult conversations are difficult. We are going to mess up. However, we can be proactive and do our best to make them easier.