Tips for Facilitating Difficult Discussions in the Workplace

Having uncomfortable conversations in the workplace is never easy. Conversely, avoiding difficult conversations can lead to dysfunction and poor performance. Difficult discussions are inevitable and they are a part of any professional environment. While it can be tricky to learn how to navigate these touchy conversations, it’s an important part of leadership. It is absolutely essential to learn how to handle these situations correctly in order to maintain a positive and productive workplace. Consider the following tips for overcoming fear of conflict and successfully facilitating uncomfortable conversations. 


Know the Purpose of the Conversation

First and foremost, you need to know exactly why you are having the conversation in the first place. What is the problem and what are you trying to achieve with the conversation? You should have a general outline of what you hope to accomplish as well as what solutions you can provide. You should open the discussion by reviewing why you are there and discussing the purpose of the conversation with the other person. 


Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Confronting people takes courage, but it also takes skill and empathy. Rather than beginning the conversation with anger or frustration, try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. What factors could be contributing to their behavior? What previous experiences have they had that might affect their behavior? What is the other person probably feeling and why might they feel that way? Considering these perspectives will help you to deliver your message with respect and empathy while also helping you to create a win-win situation. 


Stick to the Facts

Delivering difficult or uncomfortable news is never easy, but it’s critical that you stay on message and stick to the facts. It is important not to let yourself be derailed by the other person’s emotions or reactions. You have to remember that you are there for a specific purpose and you need to stay clear about your desired intentions. If necessary, take responsibility for your part in the situation, but avoid candy coating things and be honest with yourself and the other person. 


Be Prepared to Listen

A difficult conversation will likely result in a response from the other person. You must remember that their opinions and feelings matter too, and respect them enough to really listen to what they have to say. This will give you more insight into what is really going on and how you can come up with a viable solution. By approaching the conversation with an open mind, you are more likely to reach a positive outcome. You should also be prepared to ask questions. You will gain a better understanding of their point of views by encouraging thoughtful responses. 


Show You Care

Get in the mindset that you want what is best for the other person. Tough news is never easy to hear, but it’s received much better if you feel like the person delivering it has your best interest at heart. Show interest by asking for feedback and finding out what you can do to help them. You want the other person to see that this conversation is meant to encourage growth and is not meant as a personal attack.