How do I make difficult conversations easy

5 tips for more calmness when you have difficult conversations on the job

As a business coach, as a department head, as a sailor, as a mother, sister, wife, friend and in many other roles, I have had a lot of difficult conversations. Today I'll show you what really matters if you want to stay cool and exude serenity.

When the job is about difficult conversations and stressful situations, it is mostly about personal performance or business strategy.

Heated conversations are certainly not fun for anyone. The fact is that some people can handle it better and stay cooler than others. A reasonably calm and constructive conversation that you have with one person cannot work at all with another person. People are very different.

Ultimately, you never know exactly what to expect in a difficult conversation.

Regardless of your expectations, you should never imagine the worst. Don't be prepared for a fight from the start. Instead, you should prepare yourself for how you can find common ground and end the conversation on a good basis if possible.

Tip 1: Give everyone involved time to prepare for a difficult conversation

If you initiate a meeting a little in advance on a conflicted topic, you can prepare for it.

Your preparation should include these points:

  • You can think through your individual arguments.
  • You can work out how to bring it up.
  • You can sketch out an ideal result for the interview for yourself.
  • And you can put yourself in the right, ideally matter-of-fact, relaxed mood in advance.

However, it is also your responsibility to formulate clear expectations and also to give your counterpart time to think about the upcoming conversation.

The implementation is done quickly. That can be something like: “Dear employee X, I would like to use our next Jour Fix to discuss the feedback from the project team on your project management. I want to hear your thoughts and ideas about this, and I want to share mine with you. "

With the right preparation for both sides, there will be no nasty surprises in difficult conversations - although these do occur occasionally.

Sometimes people are so far removed from the perception of others in their self-perception that despite preparation, very unexpected - and usually very unpleasant - topics come up on the table.

There are situations that do not allow a long lead-time or long preparation. But even then, it makes sense to initiate a difficult conversation in such a way that it is clear from the start what this is about.

First of all, “fabric softener communication” and then come around the corner with hard truths is definitely not a good idea!

Tip 2: Always work to find similarities and similarities in difficult conversations.

It can be helpful to think of a difficult conversation as a negotiation. Try to find common ground on a difficult subject.

First, see what you can reach consensus on. Then go into the areas where you may disagree.

For example, when it comes to a performance appraisal, you can formulate it as follows: “My goal is to develop yourself further in your role and to bring your strengths to advantage for the team. Today I want to start by talking about all the things that you are already doing really well. In addition, I would like to address a few points where I still see development potential. I am particularly interested in your perspective, and together with you I would like to determine what you can do and how. "

A conversation like this should never be about “guilt” or “mistake” - it should always be about a common understanding of what can be changed and improved.

Tip 3: interrupt the difficult conversation when the situation rocks.

Not all of my difficult conversations have always gone the way I would have liked. There was also some real trouble.

This is life - difficult conversations are emotional. People get aggressive at times and the voices get louder. And when one person is very tense and perhaps angry, it is very difficult for the other person not to increase the level of aggression.

And all of a sudden you find yourself in a completely unproductive dialogue that has got completely out of hand.

When I look back on the moments in which I also completely overreacted, then today I wish I had simply broken off the conversation and said: “Now is not the right time to continue this discussion. I notice that my emotions are very much in control of me right now. Let's both take some time to sort ourselves out - and let's talk more tomorrow. "

Exiting is the only right option if a conflict escalates.

Some people will try to continue the argument anyway. However, if you feel that you can no longer have a rational discussion, then end the conversation. Better too early than too late. Only in this way can everyone get a cool head again.

Tip 4: Ask a lot of questions to clarify a situation.

Our private and professional lives are more closely related than we think. Both influence each other - and that permanently.

We all know the moments when we are burdened by a situation from our private context at work. If you are having a difficult conversation with someone who is not doing their usual job, for example, then it is important to spend a lot of time on good questions. Plus, you should really listen carefully to the answers.

Only when you have a complete picture of the situation can you argue well-founded in a difficult conversation.

It is often not helpful to start with tips and ideas for a solution before you even know exactly what the problem actually is. "A journey into the world of your counterpart" - that is exactly what a good dialogue should be.

Tip 5: Always try to end a difficult conversation on a positive note.

Difficult conversations are inherently complicated, but don't forget that stressful, conflicted conversations can also end positively.

Make it clear to the other person that you appreciate the discussion. For example, you might finish by saying, “I understand that this wasn't the easiest discussion. That is precisely why I appreciate that you sat down here and we were able to lead them anyway. "

A positive comment at the end can ensure that everyone involved leaves the conversation with a good feeling.

Instead of just being relieved that it is finally over, a positive conclusion can even have the effect of strengthening the relationship between the interlocutors. Everyone can be proud to have got through the difficult conversation and produced a result.

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