There are certain conversations no one wants to have at work. A bad employee review, telling the client that a project has been delayed, or firing someone are all conversations that need to be had, but no one wants to reach into the fire if they don’t have to. If that task falls to you, though, you might want to keep some of these tips from Harvard Business Review, and American Express in mind.

5 Tips For Having Difficult Conversations at Work

Tip #1: Take A Deep Breath

If you’re about to leap off a high dive, you’d take a deep breath to steady yourself. Do the same thing when it comes to those hard conversations at work. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, take a moment to calm and center yourself. If your nerves are jangling, and your focus is blurry, you are more likely to make missteps. When it’s at work, a belly flop is the last thing you want.

Tip #2: Keep The Focus on The Issue

When you’re having a difficult conversation, think of it as if you were in the debate club. You’re not attacking the person, nor are they attacking you. You are both talking about an issue, and the impact that issue has on the workplace. If you can keep the focus on the issue at hand, and separate it from the person you’re talking to, it will allow you to maintain a clearer conversation, and will help ease some of the animosity that might otherwise creep in.

Tip #3: Know Your Goal

Never go into a difficult conversation half-cocked. Before you make that call, you need to know what the purpose of this conversation is, and what you hope to accomplish with it. Sometimes that goal is simple; you need to inform someone they’re being let go. Sometimes, though, the goal is more complex. You need to inform a client of delays, but also reassure them that the project IS progressing. Before you can have a good conversation about a hard topic, you need to know what your victory conditions are.

Tip #4: See Things From The Other Side

There are two sides to every conversation, and if you ever want to make progress it’s important to acknowledge that. If you want to make real changes, and ensure that you come away from any difficult discussion with positive results, then it needs to actually be a discussion. You have to communicate with the other person, and try to understand the issue from his or her perspective. The empathy is key to getting your message across.

Tip #5: Manage Emotions

The “there’s no crying in baseball” attitude of the past, where all workers were expected to leave their emotions at the door, doesn’t hold in the modern workplace. We have admitted that people have feelings, and that those feelings need to be taken into consideration if everyone is going to be able to work together. So, it’s unrealistic to demand that people leave their emotions out of work conversations, especially difficult ones. However, it is your job to try to manage your own emotions, and those of the person you’re talking to. Not restraining them, or denying them, but managing them. Through open communication, word choice, and other tactics, you can keep the conversation flowing toward progress, instead of letting it get stymied with negative emotional outpouring.

No one likes buckling down to have these talks but communication is, without doubt, the most important component of a functional workplace. If you’re looking for more tips on how to smooth out the rough spots at your company, simply contact us today!

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