How To Rock A Difficult Conversation In 7 Simple Steps

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Step 1 – Be Consistent

  • Consistency in your approach to having difficult discussions will mean people become to expect that you will address issues as they arise. This could act as an incentive to encourage great performance.
  • By holding everyone to account and addressing any issues promptly, you are ensuring that nobody feels singled out. It will build trust amongst your team.
  • Being consistent in calling out poor performance is balanced out by being consistent in your conversations about the great work people do. You are seen as fair because you are providing a balanced viewpoint of their performance.

Step 2 – Be Respectful of the Other Person

  • Showing respect for others is achieved by treating them well throughout the process.
  • People will remember how you made them feel long after they remember your words, so:
    • Seek to understand their version of events before you launch into your feedback.
    • Ask for their point of view after you have shared yours.
    • Ask open-ended questions rather than closed questions so they can explain their version of events.

Step 3 – Be Mindful and Build Rapport

  • People pick up on the ‘vibe’ of others quickly. If you focus on being calm, present and organised in your thinking and words, then you are leading the way for the other person to follow.
  • If the definition of rapport is ‘your thoughts become their words’ then you have a powerful place to influence. The more calm and centred you are, the more you are able to encourage the other person to be the same.
  • If you assume rapport, based on the relationship you have already created over time with your team member, then you certainty will have a positive effect on them.

Step 4 – Be an Effective Listener

  • Focus completely on the other person and what they are saying. This means not thinking of your next question or how you are feeling when they are talking.
  • Be comfortable with silence, as they may need time to get their thoughts in order. Don’t pressure them for an answer, some people like to choose their words carefully.
  • Ensure you understand what they are telling you by checking in with them, asking if you have interpreted their message correctly.

Step 5 – Be Honest and Open-Minded

  • You’re both human beings, so it’s ok to be human. If you are a bit nervous to start with, you might like to say “I feel a bit vulnerable right now, however I want to talk to you about…”
  • See the situation from their perspective and be empathetic. If they are not responding, say, “I’m unsure how to interpret your silence” or “how can I best help you right now?”
  • If it goes pear shaped (e.g. they are rude, start swearing, become aggressive) then politely call an end to the meeting. Reconvene later and importantly, come ready to have a positive outcome, without bringing judgement from the previous session.

Step 6 – Be Sure to Provide Choice

  • When we feel our choices are restricted, we move to a place of fear and uncertainty or lack of control. Be aware of this so that you can diffuse the situation before it ignites.
  • Ensure you provide them options for input on how to move forward from this point.
  • Brainstorming together allows a great opportunity for a full exploration of alternative options – perhaps some you hadn’t yet thought of.

Step 7 – Be Compassionate

  • To the other person. Even the toughest of us can experience a level of disappointment within ourselves, embarrassment, or a feeling of vulnerability when we have been caught out doing something wrong or we make a genuine mistake. It’s been my experience as a leader that by far the majority of people come to work every day wanting to give the best of themselves to their job. Not to intentionally create problems.
  • To yourself. Especially if these conversations are few and far between (and let’s hope that’s the case!). If you follow all of this advice and something still goes wrong be ok with it. Know that you will be able to recover from it. After all it’s not failure, rather feedback on how to approach it differently. Give yourself a day or so, before you review where it could have been improved, and start your preparation again.

You’ve got this!

How To Rock A Difficult ConversationIn 7 Simple Steps


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