We all find ourselves in sticky situations from time to time. Maybe you know something you shouldn’t or someone asks you for help with something and you aren’t quite sure how to handle it.
Other times, the situation could be that you’re a manager and you have to discipline your staff or you’re a daughter, spouse or friend that has to share bad news with family or others.
Typically, we turn to friends or trusted colleagues in times like these. Often, though, while the advice is given with good intentions, it isn’t always practical.
We all know that one person that suggests charging at the challenge head on and with no apologies. I call this the bull-in-a-china-shop method. We also all have that advisor that suggests approaching it in a positive way. We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, after all. This is the delicate method.
Most friends and family, though, tend to offer advice somewhere in between. So how do you deal with these difficult and dreaded conversations?
Well, if you’re like many, you avoid them like the plague. Who needs confrontation anyway?
What if you didn’t avoid the tough conversations, though? How would you handle it?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on leadership and conflict resolution lately and here is some of the advice I’ve stumbled upon.
• Prepare yourself. This doesn’t just mean taking notes or toughening up for what you think will be a rough event. Try to be optimistic, frame points in a positive light and have alternative solutions in mind.
• Stay focused. Sometimes difficult conversations bring pent-up emotions or irrelevant issues into play. As the instigator of the conversation, try to stay focused on the task at hand.
• Start with the facts. In an age of “alternative facts” this can be difficult. It can be more difficult if you don’t have all of the facts when you enter the conversation. Try to at least start with the facts leading to the conflict before discussing feelings or outcomes.
• Acknowledge the other person’s perspective. You don’t have to agree with him or her, but if you can make the other person feel heard and understood, it can go a long way. It shows that you care about him or her and allows you to search for common ground.
• Slow down and breathe. It’s easy to get nervous when you know a conversation might not go well. Take your time. Pause to gather your thoughts and take the time to listen and process what the other person is saying.
• Outline expectations. This typically comes at the end of the conversation. It provides a way for both parties to move forward knowing what to expect. If expectations aren’t met from either side, another conversation will likely be necessary.
These don’t all work all the time. But they seem to be the most common advice given throughout the expert advice I have read. I hope it helps you the next time you find yourself in a tricky spot.