4 Tips On How To Have Difficult Workplace Conversations And Keep The Peace

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Difficult conversations at work are inevitable but are there ways to make them less difficult? Should you prepare for it? How do you find the right words in the moment? More importantly, how do you ensure it goes smoothly?

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Tips To Have Difficult Workplace Conversations

Andres Lares, Managing Partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute provides the following tips on how to have difficult conversations at work.

  1. Identify The Problem And Schedule The Talk

Prepare to identify the problem, explain how it may impact others or the organization’s goals, what must change, and solutions to the problem. Whenever possible, schedule the meeting on neutral grounds, meaning someplace both parties are comfortable talking. If it is a virtual meeting, consider scheduling the meeting as a coffee meeting.

  1. Set Yourself For Success And Rehearse

Prepare a script for the meeting so you present with confidence and manage your environment. Jot down topics or problems you’d like to discuss. Also include having an organized background, dressing the same way you would for an in-person meeting, having lights on you, etc. Prior to the meeting, do some activities you enjoy, e.g., listening to music or going for a brief walk, to get in a positive frame of mind.

  1. Be Clear And Focus On The Relationship

Covering difficult topics isn’t always easy but there is a way to cover things such as performance, conflict, etc. Communicate clearly and establish a collaboration -- how you can embrace change together. Ask questions like how do you feel about this? Do you have any ideas on how we can move forward from this together? Remember you can be strong on the topic but still be empathic to the person.

  1. Give Time And Attention

Try not to jump right into business. While brief, some personal rapport building is helpful. Research shows merely chatting on the phone for five minutes made people feel more cooperative with the other party. By telling stories you’re not only engaging emotion, but you also make information more relevant and memorable. Then, after you have discussed the issue, give the other party time to gather their thoughts. Consider giving them a few options to choose from so they feel they are in control, but all are selecting within parameters that are acceptable to you.

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