7 Tips for Difficult Conversations

Diverse employees argue over financial report in office

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Difficult conversations aren't fun but if you want change they can't be avoided. Don't worry, Harvard Business Review has some excellent tips for us!

  1. Keep your goals realistic. You can’t ever eliminate the stress you’ll feel around telling your supplier you’re cutting back, but you can reduce it. Spend your energy on preparation – focus on developing your specific script.
  2. Give bad news upfront. Tough messages should be simply and clearly stated in the first sentence.
  3. Adopt the “And Stance”. Take control of the conversation by pre-empting distractions, objections and blame by using “and”. “I know you worked all night, and I know you want to do well, and I know you just joined the company, and I know the graphics people sometimes get the data wrong, and I know I could have been clearer in my directions to you….” And, and, and.
  4. Get out of the “blame frame.” Each person involved in the situation has a different objective story about what happened. Your goal is not to judge who’s right and wrong, it’s to manage to better outcomes in the future.
  5. Paraphrase. To create clarity and to let people know you’re genuinely listening, summarize what they’re telling you — and ask them to do the same.
  6. Be prepared for bad reactions. Finger-pointing, denial, arguments and tears are all possible outcomes of tough conversations. You cannot control the other person’s reactions, but you can anticipate them, and be emotionally ready.
  7. Pretend it’s 3 months or 10 years from now. Put the difficult conversation in perspective by thinking about the future. The conversations that are hardest right now will seem less daunting.

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