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!
- 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.
- Give bad news upfront. Tough messages should be simply and clearly stated in the first sentence.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.