All of us face tough conversations at work at some point. While many tough conversations are about work performance, many aren't. Conversations where you address personal or sensitive issues such as personal hygiene are tough. Telling employees about the company downsizing and the possibility of them losing their jobs is tough. Delivering bad news to an employee, breaking the news about a colleague's death, and terminating someone's employment are all tough.
During our Twitter chat on Friday, we discussed, "Being Brave: Having Tough Conversations." Participants from around the world told us more about the tough conversations they've had and also how they prepare for having such conversations.
Here are the questions and some responses from our participants:
Question 1: How would you define a "tough conversation?"
All agreed that there is an element of discomfort in tough conversations.
@Sistadahealer: One that makes you uncomfortable, one that may get heated, may have to point out mistakes, making one feel vulnerable.
@FloraBarton: Any conversation where you have to challenge the opinion or actions of another person.
Question 2: What tough conversations have you had at work?
@amypen64: To be honest? That I had a negative attitude and it was affecting others. Not fun times at that office.
@PG_pmp: When you are unable to satisfy other person's expectation and discussion continues.
@hrsanjaynegi: Sharing feedback of your boss.
Question 3: How do you prepare for a tough conversation?
Some prefer doing more mental preparation while others lean towards preparing practically.
@NootsCaboots: Try role play and prepare for a variety of outcomes.
@temekoruns: Practice taking the emotion and connection out of it. Use empathy with role-playing and be prepared to play devil's advocate.
@cdemgo: I write out a plan on what I want to say so as to convey the message in a respectful and sensitive manner. Practice that plan.
Question 4: What helps you feel more confident when starting a tough conversation?
@PramodDrSolanki: My conviction about the course of conversation I want to pursue, knowledge of the other person and the issues involved.
@hindhaugh123: Using a general ice-breaker intro before focusing on importance of the conversation.
Question 5: What do you fear most about having a tough conversation?
A number of participants mentioned fearing a very emotional response, anger or conflict.
@jprofNB: That a person would retreat into themselves and become resentful. That they would not embrace growth. Their impact on others.
@BrainBlenderTec: That my message will be "lost in translation." Words have many emotions.
Question 6: What makes the conversation tougher - the topic or the person you're talking with? Why?
@MicheleDD_MT: For me it is the person that can make the conversation tougher, especially if there’s a risk of damaging the relationship.
@SAPTAonline: The person can make a tough topic even tougher - especially if they "know" everything.
Question 7: What are the risks of avoiding tough conversations?
When you avoid tough conversations, you run the risk of the issue getting out of hand.
@Yolande_MT: When avoiding tough conversations you trade short term discomfort for long term dysfunction.
@TwisterKW: Insanity. Doing the same thing (or nothing) but expecting different results (things to change/improve).
Question 8: How do you deal with the situation if the other person reacts defensively or with high emotion?
Getting defensive is quite a natural reaction, but not necessarily the best for the situation. Here's what some of our participants shared:
@Dwyka_Consult: Give them time to speak and vent. Listen with intent. If a person feels unheard he/she feels disrespected.
@Midgie_MT: Speak in a lower and slower voice in an attempt to calm them down. Suggest a break and that they reflect before discussing later.
Question 9: How can both parties benefit from a tough conversation?
@ZalkaB: Learning to listen, understand other points of view and working towards a bigger, common goal, solution. Accepting without judgment.
@ShereesePubHlth: Learning opportunities, teaching opportunities and personal development.
Question 10: What have tough conversations revealed to you about yourself?
It's easier to notice what other people should learn from a situation than noticing what you should learn from it. Our participants have learned from their tough conversations though:
@hopegovind: I have evolved. With each tough conversation given and received, my maturity has increased
@MolinaCareers: That facing your fears is the best way to learn and grow.
In closing, @hopegovind reminded us that having tough conversations isn't a choice, it's a necessity!
This year is drawing to an end fast. So, what did you experience most often during 2016: lessons, hurdles or opportunities? Cast your vote in our Twitter poll here.
In our next #MTtalk on Friday, December 23, 2016, we'll be talking about "Highlights and Lessons from 2016." We'd like to hear from you what you learned and what hurdles you encountered. Also come and share with us the highlights of your year and how those experiences shaped you. Please join us at 1pm EST/6pm GMT.
To participate in our chat about the highlights and lessons of the past year, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on "All Tweets" and you'll be able to follow the live chat feed. To join the conversation, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the chat feed.
In the meantime, here are some resources if you'd like to read more about having tough conversations:
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Mind Tools coach Sarah Harvey asks what are the benefits and dangers of courage at work.