How Do You Handle Difficult Conversations?

Sometimes in both life and in business, you will have to have a difficult conversation with someone else. It might be with your boss, someone who works for you or your partner. While it might be tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore the issue, that won’t solve it. You’re better off dealing with it, but what’s the best way to do this, in order to get the best result for both parties?


So you know that you need to have a difficult conversation with someone else. It could be over a disagreement that needs to be resolved. It could be a conversation with someone with whom you just don’t see eye to eye. It is certainly not something that you’re looking forward to doing!


The most important thing to remember in all these situations is not to rush into having this tricky conversation. Take some time to plan the conversation first and you’ll find it much easier to get the best outcome for both of you.


Same versus Different


The next thing to do is to take a sheet of paper and write Same and Different at the top – one word on each side of the paper. In the Same column, write down everything that you can think of that you and the person with whom you need to have the tricky conversation, have in common. This could include your gender, age, responsibilities, career aspirations, motivations, level of experience and whether you’re naturallyan extrovert or an introvert. Think also about hobbies or interests that you might share. Do you both have children and if so, are they same age and gender? Do you both drink coffee or tea? Wine or beer?

In the Different column, list everything that you do differently, or that you don’t have in common.


Carrying out this exercise gives you a visual way of seeing how much easier this conversation could beif you have a lot in common. If there are few similarities between you, then you will know early on that this could be a trickier conversation. There is nothing wrong with having differences – what is essential is that you acknowledge that there are differences.


This exercise can also explain why a relationship with a manager or member of staff is difficult. The less you have in common, the harder it will be to build rapport with someone else.


Once you have your list of Same vs Different, you can use it to prepare the ground for the conversation. If you rush in with all your guns blazing, in an attempt to win the argument, that’s just what you’ll get – an argument! Instead, spend some time thinking about how best to open the conversation, based on something that you both have in common. Far better to spend a few minutes talking about a common hobby or interest, to break the ice and put you both at ease, than to go straight for the tough part of the conversation.


Try this tip the next time you need to have a difficult conversation and see how it makes getting the conversation off to a good start – and importantly a better finish – so much easier.


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