5 Ways to Unleash Results with Difficult Conversations


The summer of 2014 was an exercise in Difficult Conversations for me. I needed to discuss issues with clients, coaches, and my virtual assistant. As a result of all this practice, I reflected on what was important to my success in these conversations.

Here are 5 things I found particularly helpful:

  1. Be self-aware. Understand what specifically is making this conversation difficult for you. Are you being triggered from a past experience, is it a difficult topic for you to address? What is your personal style with conflict – do you avoid conflict at all costs, or do you immediately want to address issues as they arise?
  2. Listen more than you speak. The art of listening is a key skill set in holding a conversation. Allowing time for the other person to share their point of view is paramount. Ensure that you have heard them accurately by using reflective listening skills.
  3. When sharing your perspective, be specific. Outline your concerns in terms of behaviours vs. making judgements. For example, “You have been late for the last 3 team meetings. I’m wondering what is causing this to occur”. Naming specific behaviours in a timely fashion, gives the person the opportunity to reflect upon what was happening and make changes.
  4. Ask questions with genuine curiosity. One of the dangers with challenging conversations is making assumptions. We tell ourselves stories based on how we are thinking and feeling. These stories are often incorrect, so rather than spinning tales, ask questions to better understand the other person’s perspective. Check out your perceptions to see if the other person sees the situation in the same way or differently.
  5. Seek mutual outcomes. It’s helpful to let the other person know at the outset that you are looking for solutions that will work for both parties. After you have listened and asked questions, it’s vital to look for win-win solutions. Ask questions such as, “From your perspective, what do you see as the best outcome here?” or, “we appear to agree upon __________, how can we build on that?” If you have suggestions, encourage feedback from the other person to help you build on the conversation.

Having difficult conversations is an important function in business. Using these 5 points can assist you to be even more successful.

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