“When we avoid difficult conversations, we trade short-term discomfort for long-term dysfunction.”
– Peter Bromberg
As a leader, you must be willing to do hard things. This includes having difficult conversations. It is never a question of if you will have to have difficult conversations but when you will.
Research has shown that people often avoid difficult conversations due to fear of conflict, uncertainty about how to handle the situation or lack of confidence in their ability to communicate effectively.
Challenging conversations are a part of life. The sooner you accept that, the easier it becomes to face the next one.
At the root of every difficult conversation is the result of an unresolved conflict. That conflict where you may have to:
- Confront the abrasive personality on your team
- Terminate someone
- Meet with a superior or a coach who may fire you for speaking up
- Tackle that difficult personality that’s jeopardizing other relationships
Have a Plan
How can you increase your confidence and decrease your apprehension when going into difficult conversations? Plain and simple: have a plan.
In this blog post, I am going to share 3 key strategies that you can apply to effectively navigate difficult conversations.
My goal is that after reading this post, you will be more proficient when facing the inevitable difficult conversation.
1. Know your WHY
Knowing your why ignites your passion and passion fuels courage. You will need courage to master difficult conversations.
Believing in your cause will help you overcome self-imposed hindrances.
Having a deep sense of your why keeps you focused and pushes you toward your desired goal despite the fact that you will be facing emotionally charged issues.
Knowing your why can also help you communicate more effectively; expressing your perspective and reasoning with greater ease.
You may have to dig deep to uncover what is truly at the heart of this difficult conversation.
- What is the purpose of this conversation?
- What is causing the mental or emotional anguish you are feeling over the thought of having to have this conversation?
- What’s at stake?
The issue that is at stake is most likely your WHY.
Solid preparation is paramount to any endeavor; laying the groundwork to have a difficult conversation is no different.
Preparation is important because it gives you the knowledge you need to be equipped for difficult conversations.
Knowledge Is Power
Being prepared minimizes the likelihood of unexpected or unforeseen reactions. This increases your confidence and your ability to handle challenges that may arise.
When preparing, start with the end in mind. Define your desired outcome.
What do you want to take away from the conversation?
Do the work; know your talking points.
Listen at a deep level; not focusing on what you are feeling or thinking about or what you are going to say next.
Remove any biases that could hinder your perspective. Having a non-judgmental lens will allow you to hear what the other person is thinking without partiality.
You can prepare by asking yourself bold questions:
- What is the worst thing that can happen?
- What is the best possible outcome?
- What is your line in the sand?
- What exactly do you want to express?
Answering these questions gives you clarity. Clarity will help you focus on execution.
3. Handle Strong Emotions
It’s inevitable; there will be strong emotions involved when having difficult conversations.
People Get Defensive. People Get Angry. People Get Scared.
This is just part of the process. Preparing for these emotions makes it so much easier to handle emotionally charged conversations.
Stabilize your thoughts
As you’re preparing for a difficult conversation, don’t let your thoughts go into overdrive and run away from you.
According to research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, your thoughts produce a biochemical reaction in your brain.
Consequently, your brain in turn releases chemical signals which act as messengers of your thought. The thoughts that produce these messengers allow your body to feel what you were thinking.
Here’s Where You Have a Choice
As you are preparing for a difficult conversation, take control of your thoughts because your thoughts will elicit an emotion and you want it to be a healthy one.
Preparation, mental rehearsal, and choosing your thoughts increase the likelihood of you having more optimistic and positive emotions for this conversation.
Likewise, if your thoughts are resentful, hateful, or angry, your brain will produce chemicals to make you feel these emotions.
“When you stabilize your thoughts, your emotions will follow.”
– Rita Hudgens
Revisit Your WHY
You have to separate your emotions from your WHY; the purpose of the difficult conversation.
Although this is easier said than done, the process goes so much smoother when you are prepared to handle strong emotions; both yours and the person you are talking to.
Remember to stick to facts, not feelings.
Approach versus Avoidance
When it comes to difficult conversations, it would be easy to
- Look the other way
- Bury your head in the sand
- Avoid the conversation like the plague
These are all avoidance behaviors that will cause you to delay and procrastinate having difficult conversations.
The solution? Seek to develop an approach mindset.
It is common for people to avoid difficult conversations, as they can be uncomfortable, emotionally charged, and can potentially damage relationships.
Count the Cost
By avoiding conversations, you may inadvertently prolong or intensify problems, and miss opportunities to improve relationships and performance. Therefore, you must develop the skills and strategies needed to effectively navigate difficult conversations.
It is important to remember that having difficult conversations help address issues and conflicts that can negatively impact the team or organization.
Every difficult conversation is an opportunity for you to grow. You not only grow in communication skills, but you also grow in bravery and confidence.
By doing so, you will learn to face your fears with courage and conviction; growing in grit and grace with every difficult conversation.
“Doing the difficult things you’ve never done awakens the talents you never knew you had.”
– Robin Sharma
Always remember – Nothing is Impossible
I have created this anti-anxiety and anti-stress tool kit, proven by science, to help you reduce anxiety and stress. I guarantee you that if you implement some of these ideas and use these tools; you will navigate this uncertainty boat like a highly skilled Captain.
- Having Difficult Conversations - January 25, 2023
- Fight Like An Underdog - December 28, 2022
- Play to Your Strengths - December 14, 2022
This is an extremely well thought out and explained approach to one of life’s great challenges – difficult converstions. Rita has laid out the steps to prepare yourself with wise advice and great examples. These steps prepare you well beyond having a positive attitude. But, she is right when she says “When you stabilize your thoughts, your emotions will follow.”
Thanks Rita for this helpful information!
Thank you Don. It’s a very hard thing to do but so necessary!