These conversations can be awkward, and sometimes unpleasant but, ultimately, these are inevitable in any workplace dynamic because the world is filled with a whole bunch of different people who sometimes clash. 

70% of employees avoid difficult conversations in the workplace, according to research, and this can lower morale and cause a toxic work environment. 

Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg encourages her employees to have tough conversations at least once a week. She said: “If you’re not having them, you’re not growing.”

Here are a few tips to help make these conversations a little bit easier.

1. TRY NOT TO AVOID IT

Difficult conversations can become more difficult the longer you wait. You can also build up anxiety that will make the situation bigger in your mind than it really is. Make feedback extremely common, and get in the habit of talking about things as they happen, otherwise, the moment is slightly lost and the importance fades. Just like Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs said: “Your job is not to be easy on people. Your job is to make them better.”

2. BE PURPOSE-DRIVEN

Why are you having this conversation?  What do you want to achieve? Write down three things you want to accomplish and focus on them. If you hone in on the root of the problem right away, you lessen the probability of the conversation getting away from you. Give it a try, and avoid going off on tangents. 

3. CONFIDENCE IS KEY

If you’re confident, the person you’re talking to is likely to pick this up. If you approach it as an uncomfortable situation, it will be one. Feeling confident, or pretending you feel confident, is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliche, but opportunities are rarely offered, they’re seized. If you’re asking for a promotion, take initiative, begin the conversation with confidence. You’re never going to get what you want unless you ask.

4. BE EMPATHETIC

Sometimes you need to look inward if you see the other person is struggling with what you said, pause for a minute so they can gather their thoughts. If they start to get emotional, understand how they must be feeling and reassure them that you’re providing this feedback because of the potential you see in them – build them up, instead of knocking them down. 

5. “I” NOT “YOU”

Starting your sentence with “I” instead of “You” avoids put-downs, promotes positive communication, and fosters enthusiasm to find a solution. It’s the main difference between constructive and critical feedback. 

6. SOLUTIONISE 

The goal of having this conversation is to reach a resolution. If the solution isn’t clear from the beginning, work together to come up with one that you both agree on. Listen to everyone’s ideas if they have any and bring some of yours to the table as well. Finish by committing to the resolution and make sure there is an action plan going forward.

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