Great question – remote working has taught us all how to adjust our communication. Nonetheless when difficult conversations are necessary, they can still be done effectively. Here are my tips:
- First, try to have the conversation via video conference (zoom, etc.). Difficult conversations are difficult enough without having to read into email and guess someone’s intention or reaction. Visually being able to see facial expressions, tone and body language will help the conversation be most effective.
- Schedule time. Difficult conversations are not often quick, so don’t try to squeeze them into your day. Allocate enough time (doesn’t have to be an hour – ½ could be just fine) so that you’re not rushed and you’re available to listen and be present.
- Be clear about your intention. What is your intention in having the conversation? Is it to share something you’ve been holding back, address an issue, build trust by being honest? Whatever it is, start by sharing your intention and what you want out of the conversation.
- Be direct (15 words or less). I want to talk about your performance, or I want to discuss a recent customer issue that didn’t go well. Whatever it is, start with the most important thing you want the other person to take away.
- Then discuss the issue, and listen. Listening requires you to be present, and ask more questions to really understand the other person’s point of view.
- Use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’. “you” tends to create defensiveness. I want you to be at our meetings on time is different than you need to start coming on time. Phrases like ‘my experience is, I notice…, I want, are you willing? Help eliminate defensiveness and keep conversation focused on the matter at hand.
- Check in for understanding. The best way to know if someone has heard what you’ve said is to check in and ask them to repeat what they’ve heard. If you agree, you’re good, and if not, you have the opportunity to correct the conversation.
Difficult conversations don’t have to be difficult. Stay aware of your own fears about the conversation, plan for it and be direct with your intention, information and language.
Donna Flynn, Career & Management Coach – BankTalentHQ