9 Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

March 12, 2019 by  

These 9 steps can provide you with a viable structure that will offer you the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations which will have a better chance to result in win/win outcomes. However, as with any system, please consider these steps to be general rules, and try to choose your words carefully in preparation for the exchange. Having a difficult conversation is no easy task, however, if you are going to become accountable and take back control of the situation, you must at least try to resolve the issue.

Here are the steps:

1. Prepare and practice your opening statement so that you can anticipate the possible comebacks and objections of the person with whom you are having this conversation.
2. Have this conversation in person, and best to choose in a neutral location where there will be few or no distractions.
3. State your intentions. Be clear on what you wish to have happen.
4. Clearly identify and describe the issue. Do this objectively and honestly.
5. Describe your emotions due to the experience. Again, try to do this objectively and honestly.
6. Objectively state the current outcome and how you would prefer to have a different one.
7. Identify how you may have contributed to this problem and how you will act differently in the future.
8. Indicate your sincere wish to resolve the issue in a satisfactory manner for both of you.
9. Invite your partner to respond, however, do not react if they take offence to this discussion. Remember, you are “criticizing” their behaviour and requesting a change. They may “attack” you for taking this approach. Stay honest and respectful in all your responses.

Once you have employed these guidelines, you will begin to feel more confident to speak your mind in the future. In addition, remember that having this difficult conversation once, may not solve the issue which means you may have to broach this subject again at a later date.
Being assertive is not a bad approach to difficult situations, however, it can be challenging to stay measured, honest, and calm when your “listener” is upset.
Be sure to thank them for hearing your side of the situation and if they do not concur with your expected outcome, offer to follow up later once they have had a chance to consider what you have offered.
You can also say that you wish to resolve this in a satisfactory manner because you feel that a good and respectful relationship is so important for high performance in the workplace.
We cannot make people change their behaviour, however, when we change ours, there may be a positive reaction to that change. In any event, you will feel better for trying to deal with this in an honest and respectful manner.