Handling Tough Conversations

Are you facing into a difficult meeting that you are not looking forward to. Has a project gone wrong, and you have to face that difficult task of meeting the team and finding out what exactly went wrong. Are you dealing with someone who is challenged when faced with criticism of any kind?

Here are some top tips to consider, when facing that stressful conversation.

Listen, listen, listen. When you sit down to that challenging meeting. Start by asking the other person to say what they need to, this will help them to "get it out of their system". Simply allowing someone the opportunity to have their say and expel all of that stress and emotion. Can release a lot of negative energy and stress. This in turn, should alleviate the tension in the room and allow all parties become more relaxed and open to a meaningful discussion.

Find some common ground. If you know that you will be disagreeing with someone. Try to guide your discussion from a position of common ground, something that you both agree on. Using open questions to guide the conversation in a positive way.

Say "and" not "but". Try to use the word and rather than but. But acts like an eraser inside people's heads. It erases the value of anything said before it in a sentence. This is particularly important if the person you are talking to, is tense and emotional and feels in their mind, that their thoughts, comments, opinions and actions are not valued.

Use lots of "I" statements and reference the project not the person. Limit you statements. I clarifies for the other person what you think and feel while you comments can make a person feel criticised. Also, where possible try to identify to the project and the activity rather than the person. You will deliver the same message, but not in an aggressive "finger pointing" way, also offer support where possible, using engaging and open sentences e.g. instead of saying "You didn't meet the deadline", change to something like. "Yesterdays' deadline has passed and the report is still outstanding. What should we consider doing to remedy this situation before it becomes a challenge".

Review and consider your meeting environment. If you have control over the meeting area. Ensure that the environment where possible is private, well lit, with fresh air and water available throughout the course of the meeting. Stress causes dehydration and dehydration can impair brain function and also impact mood. A hydrated brain will respond better during a difficult meeting. Also, offering the other person a moment to enjoy a glass of water and take a break, will give you the opportunity to break a stressful moment or disagreement, if one arises.

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