Handling difficult conversations!
I’m sure that at one point or another in our lives we have all had to have that “uncomfortable, awkward, let me put it off for as long as possible” conversation with someone. Whether it was covering sensitive subjects, such as telling a work colleague that their hygiene standards are pretty disgusting and affecting everyone’s airspace or having to deal with departmental conflicts that are negatively impacting productivity or a client delivery.
Approaches to managing conflict and difficult conversational handling is typically broken down as follows:
- Clumsily delivered with lots of coughing, nervous body language and mumbling, which is just off-putting and rather uncomfortable for everyone!
- Dispensed in a robotic, unfeeling, and harsh manner, leaving the reciprocate feeling angry or humiliated, and unable to get their side across.
- Articulated in a rushed, half-hearted, vague with not much detail or any examples provided which causes confusion and fails to successfully address the issue.
- The jokey,” I’m just going through the motion because I have been told to but it’s not me saying this it’s so and so”.
- Burying your head in the sand and not addressing the issue at all and leaving it up to the office gossip to spread it all across the office, further escalating the problem.
It’s never always going to be plain sailing having to deal with difficult situations and conversations, however, here are some tips in dealing with them to try to positively move forwards and minimise any further issues.
- Ensure that Company policies are up to date and communicated to all so that its clear what standard of behaviours and expectations are required.
- Always have the conversation in a face to face, confidential and appropriate setting, where you are not likely to be interrupted.
- Practice what you are going to say beforehand, ensuring that you deliver it in a calm, clear, factual manner and do not use any personal emotional language such as “I’m disappointed” as this deflects the focus back onto you.
- If possible, provide factual evidence, to further back up the issue and avoid a ‘he said/she said’ scenario from emerging.
- Explain the impact that their behaviour or actions have caused to other people or to productivity.
- Actively listen to their side of the story, to help build an open dialogue and encourage honest communication between you both.
- If the issue is down to a lack of understanding or training provide appropriate support.
- If it’s a serious meeting, for example a disciplinary, bring a witness to ensure that the process is followed fairly, and that conversations and actions are noted down.
- Create a progress plan by setting clear objectives of required actions and expectations, use ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic (or relevant) and timely). Ensure you review these regularly.
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