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Three Tips on Difficult Conversations

Updated: May 26, 2022

Difficult conversations are something we all need to do from time to time – either in our professional or personal lives. They are called difficult conversations for a reason – they are not easy. Human nature drives us away from these (most of the time!). But they don’t always need to be feared. Here are some tips on having that difficult conversation.

Know Your Facts

Nothing will make your conversation go sideways quicker than having inaccurate facts or no facts at all to support your position. If you have an employee who is not living up to expectations – have those expectations in front of you and also how and when those expectations were communicated to the employee. If you have a customer who doesn’t want to pay for extra scope, have your contract in front of you with the language citing that it is out of scope. If you want to talk to your boss about why you feel you deserve that promotion, have your achievements detailed out and how they make you a good fit for the position.

Be Straight Up

Nothing will irritate a recipient of bad news quicker than beating around the bush. Chances are the person on the other side of the table will have some inkling on why this conversation is happening and by delaying the delivery of the message you are simply wasting the person’s time (small talk aside). Be to the point to get the message across so that you can start working on the next steps to resolve the issue at hand.

Offer Reasons, Not Excuses

When having that difficult conversation, make sure that all excuses are off the table and not part of the conversation. Excuses and reasons may sound the same but they are not – excuses absolve responsibility whereas reasons simply state “why” something happened. Example – if you have to lay off an employee – be up front with why – maybe there was a downturn in business and the position is no longer needed. But saying something like “My boss is making me trim my team” is not an acceptable reason. Or if your project is going to be three months late – say why – “our team is behind on bug fixes” – that’s a reason, that’s not an excuse.

Difficult conversations don’t always need to be difficult. Follow these pointers to help you get more comfortable with the uncomfortable.


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