Handling Delicate Conversations by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC
There are many different types of conversations held at a personal and professional level. There are conversations that are designed to impact knowledge or provide guidance, to find out more information, or to simply enjoy the time communicating and getting to know someone better.
However, there are also conversations that are less pleasant and may even be seen as confrontational. Finding a way to handle these delicate or difficult conversations in a productive and proactive way can actually lead to a stronger relationship rather than creating a rift or divide.
In both the workplace and in personal relationships, the key to creating a positive experience out of these difficult conversations is to prepare yourself for the discussion. The more you prepare for the conversation, the more effective you will be at listening to the other person and approaching the interaction with a focus on learning more and finding ways to create an agreement or opening up the possibilities for creative problem solving.
A Beginner’s Mindset
Getting rid of preconceptions and assumptions about the other person, their motives, or their reasons for having a specific opinion, outlook, or behavior helps you to spend time being curious and listening rather than simply sharing your information.
By choosing curiosity, you also show respect for the other person. Asking questions from a place of genuine interest and empathy allows the other person to let go of their preconceptions of the conversation and of you. This fosters more authentic communication over time, which in turn results in greater trust and helps to build or rebuild personal and professional relationships.
The Facts are Rarely the Issue
In most difficult conversations, the facts are not in dispute. Instead, it is the values and the beliefs of others and their feelings about the issue that are creating the difficulty.
Acknowledging your feelings and opening the conversation to allow the other person to express their feelings is a genuine way to build a connection, even in a difficult conversation. Stating that you know the conversation is difficult and you want it to be productive, inclusive, and helpful can be a simple but effective way to demonstrate respect for the other person and the process.
Sharing your intention in a statement such as “I would like to learn more about your thoughts on (the issue)” is more welcoming than “Why did you do this?” which becomes an accusation.
Prepare yourself to be in listener mode to get information and to understand the other person. With this perspective, you can build on areas of agreement, discuss possible creative solutions that incorporate their ideas, and help to foster understanding and trust that will continue to grow in subsequent conversations and interactions.