Handling Difficult Conversations

March 15, 2016For some people it is very stressful to handle difficult conversations. By difficult, I mean times when you are supposed to tell the truth to a direct report about his inadequate work, times when you have to tell the truth to your clients about a disappointing outcome, times when you can’t hide behind diplomatic words or avoid a confrontation anymore. These are the occasions when you wish you were somewhere else and somebody else was doing this for you!!

Well, nobody said it was easy to be a leader. But if you do want to lead, then you have to take on this part of the job as well. Here is what I believe can help make those challenging conversations a little bit easier:

  • Knowledge.  Have supporting details and data available so you are well prepared for the conversation and can brainstorm potential solutions.  

  • Objectivity. This is not a blame-game, but an objective view of the situation.

  • Humility. Be the first to apologize for a suboptimal situation and accept where you have failed. Don’t try to push the blame downward or sideways to somebody or something else. Stand up and say you are responsible and accountable when things go wrong. Learning humility is the biggest challenge and the most difficult attribute to achieve. But it has the most impact on your relationships, whether with direct reports, senior leaders, or clients.

  • Positivity. Always be positive about the situation. There is no problem so enormous that it cannot be resolved. Both parties in a working relationship want the best and by being positive, you can maintain the good energy, channeling it to resolve problems and look towards the future. Learn from the past but plan for the future at all times.

  • Authenticity. Be truthful and share information! This will always prevent future tensions  or ruptured relationships because both sides are always aware of what is happening. That means you both have a chance to rectify the situation before it gets out of hand.

What comes up for you or what has helped you when you have faced difficult conversations?


The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.