How to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

April 6, 2014 by  

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

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, in a neutral location without distractions.
3. State your intentions.
4. Clearly identify and describe the issue.
5. Describe your emotions due the experience.
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.
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 offensive 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 your responses.

Once you have used these guidelines, you will begin to feel more confident to speak your mind in the future. In addition, having this difficult conversation once, may not solve the issue…you may have to broach this subject again in the future.

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 incident and if they do not concur with your expected outcome, offer to follow up later once they have had a chance to consider your offer. You can also say that you wish to resolve this in a satisfactory manner as 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!


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