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How to tackle difficult conversations with confidence

No one likes to sit down and have that tough conversation.

More often than not, the situation keeps getting put off until it inevitably explodes.

Unfortunately, those in a leadership role don’t get much of a choice. Whether it’s performance issues, mistakes, coworker conflict, or any other dilemma that comes up in the workplace, a leader is tasked with addressing the issue head-on. 

This is one of the hardest things leaders must learn – and many are failing. According to a recent study conducted by SHRM, 40% of employees feel that their managers frequently avoid having honest work-related conversations. 

So how can you make sure that your leaders are up to scratch? Below are some of the strategies that can help with difficult conversations and give you the edge you need. 

Don’t put it off

“It’s not the right time.”

“I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”

“The problem will fix itself if I leave it – no point in addressing it now.”

Sound familiar? Most of us will find any reason to avoid conflict, but at the end of the day, these excuses are just that – excuses. In order to take control of the situation and get the best result for yourself, your team, and your workplace, you need to address the situation before it bubbles up and becomes ugly. 

Choose the right context

These conversations may not be best Monday morning or Friday afternoon, nor would you want to do it in a crowded room of colleagues. The time and place you choose can have an effect on how well your conversation goes – you should make sure it makes both parties feel more comfortable. 

Plan, but avoid a script

It’s important to go into the discussion with a few talking points and an ideal outcome, but leaders should also be willing to be more flexible. After all, it’s very unlikely that a plan will go off completely as expected. By having a general idea of the direction they want to take things, leaders will be able to keep things on course. 

Remain in control

Letting yourself get emotional and riled up will only make the conversation harder. You’ll want to be clear, calm, and direct. 

In order to control your emotions, it’s vital to understand them and to know when you need some space. If things do take a turn for the worse, make sure to take a break and table the discussion for latter. 

Focus on a solution

Rather than focusing on what a person is doing wrong or what you don’t want to see, focus on specific measures they can take to improve. That being said, you don’t want to sugarcoat things – when it comes to difficult situations, honesty is the best policy. 

Be empathic

While some may tell you to focus on facts rather than feelings, there’s something to be said about the power of empathy. Your EQ is your ultimate weapon here, allowing you to understand the other party and relate. 

Try to see the situation from their side and if you can’t, be open to discovering their perspective during the conversation. 

Ready to equip your leaders with the skills they need to tackle even the toughest conversations? Our Difficult Conversations training course is designed to help people leverage the power of EQ to deal with these uncomfortable situations and get the best results.



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