By Chris Taydus
In a recent meeting, I was part of a discussion about having difficult conversations with other people. The discussion was in reference to the work place, but it’s something that everyone at one time or another faces whether it be in a club or group, in school, or even in a family setting. As someone who avoids conflict like the plague, I was particularly interested in this topic.
Difficult conversations can take many forms: having to break bad news to someone, having a discussion with someone who is particularly stubborn, or having to provide criticism. We have these conversations with coworkers, residents, friends, employees, and even family members. Regardless of the other person or the topic, these discussions can test the relationships that we’ve formed with those people.
So, what is the best way to approach these challenging situations with the best chance for a successful resolution? First and foremost, as the initiator of the conversation, you need to recognize that a successful resolution may not end with you and the other person necessarily agreeing on how things turn out. You may just have to accept that you will agree to disagree on the topic in question.
The next recommendation is to be clear on the issue and the desired outcome. Being incomprehensible can often cause the exchange to go off on a tangent and ultimately disrupt your goals. The best recommendation is preparing for the discussion in advance and think about how you’d want someone to approach you if a similar situation arose.
You should also remember to remain objective in the matter, but don’t allow that objectiveness to completely remove your compassion. Express to the person how their action impacts you and your group or organization as a whole. At the same time, express to them how you appreciate their work or opinion and, if applicable, how you are trying to help them.
Finally, work with the person to try and find the best method for resolving the issue. As I said before, this may require some kind of compromise in which one or both parties are not completely satisfied with the outcome. You need to do your best to achieve the goal you’re striving to accomplish while helping the other person to get there.
Similar to my column last month about asking for help, difficult discussions are difficult for a reason, and the only way to make it easier is to prepare, to practice, and to understand that everyone goes through these types of situations in their lives. This conversation is just one moment that will eventually pass. Take a deep breath, accept that this most likely has to happen, and you’ll be a better leader for having faced this difficult discussion.