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Don’t fear the Tough Conversations

Difficult conversations are part of everyday life at work but, of course, knowing that doesn’t make them any easier.

Approaching them with clarity is the key and so proper preparation is essential.

“That’s OK, but what if we’re not on the same page?”

Well, that’s the point – you’re not likely to be on the same page – that’s why the conversation is tough!

So, what’s the secret?

Knowing what’s important to you, as an output from the conversation, is the place to start. It’s not dissimilar to a negotiation in that you want to be clear about your absolute ‘must have’ outcome.

When you know what that is, everything has a purpose and can be focussed on achieving your priorities.

Setting the conversation up for success relies on making sure that everyone involved feels safe. They must be confident that they can be open and honest and that whatever they say, it will be respected and part of a genuine discussion.

Establishing where there is agreement, within the conversation, sets out the landscape for what follows. So, share information about what got you to this place and check that there is a common understanding of what that looks like.

Now we’re ready to tackle the areas that are more sensitive. A great tactic that I’ve found helpful is to listen to the other point of view first.

In a developmental feedback conversation, for example, ask the person how they thought things went in the situation that you’re talking about. That will tell you how far apart you are, which can make life a lot easier.

If the person you’re talking to recognises that there’s a need for change, then ‘what’ will change becomes a positive discussion.

Of course, if they’re happy with what happened then you are going to have to convince them of the need for change BEFORE you discuss what could change.

After you’ve let them tell their story, you can tell yours. Don’t be afraid to share why this is so important to you. Having data to support your side of the conversation is always a powerful persuader, but so is emotion.

People, usually, don’t want to upset others and so revealing how you feel about something, has real impact. Often, people haven’t realised this, and it can be the catalyst for breaking a stalemate or just unblocking the thinking.

Turning the focus of the conversation to what will happen in the future usually takes any remaining heat out of the discussion because you’re no longer judging what has happened.

Invite suggestions and ideas in the same way that you would when coaching. Join in the evaluation of each suggestion, not forgetting about your own priorities for the outcome you want to achieve.

So, next time you’ve got have a tough conversation, try this approach and you’ll be amazed how confident you feel going into it and genuinely pleased with the outcome that you get.

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… confident, caring, knowledgeable; handled the team dynamics very well; informative and fun.

Tailored advice and feedback to the individuals and teams as he got to know us better; personal.

Great at defusing tricky situations.

Respectful and caring Educator and a wonderful individual.

Extremely good facilitator of many discussions, valuing everyone in the group.

Clear presenter; good at bringing across the material.

Very good facilitator; great listener and a great sense of humour.

On a personal level I felt it was the first time that I had been able to draw a breath and think about all you discussed since the start of Covid. So, a huge thank you, the content, slides, interaction on chat etc was all brilliant.

Special kudos to him for creating the psychological space that enabled the group to publicly share feedback

In addition to the training material itself, Hans was able to provide deeper answers on specific topics that came from more experienced managers.

Super confident, had answers for everything or helped find them. Really, good. Pretty impressed!

Great speaker, leaving sufficient space for attendees to get involved in the discussions

Hans was an engaging facilitator and was able to both answer questions expertly and cultivate a healthy dialogue including the whole room.

Good sense of humour, effective at delivering content and soliciting questions from the audience.

Hans did great job in involving people to have discussion about the various issues instead of just presenting them, much appreciated!

Clear, engaging and committed to helping us – amazing facilitator