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Tips For Handling Difficult Discussions

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Tips For Handling Difficult Discussions

News about demise, a layoff or poor performance is not something that anybody looks forward to delivering. Much less to a discussion on any of the topics mentioned above or other situations that we know will create stress for ourselves and the person involved. All of us face situations where we need to handle a difficult discussion at some point in our lives. It could be with a friend, family, boss, subordinate or employee. It is something that we need to face however stressful it may be for us. It is something that we can postpone or delay but never avoid completely.

Preparation ensures the best that is possible. While there still can and will be surprises, preparation will help you minimize them or at least equip you to deal with them well. The same goes for difficult discussions. Difficult discussions if planned and handled well can be less stressful but definitely not fully stress-free.

Putting in thought to prepare will help you get the right frame of mind for such a discussion. One, which is positive, not accusatory or defensive and carries on the discussion objectively to reach an outcome that is the best there can be for both parties involved.

Timing is imperative, so is the venue and preferred method of communication, these are the three most critical aspects of a difficult discussion which to some extent maybe under your control. Make the best of it. The right time and a good mood can make a big difference to the outcome of the discussion. This is the only way for a person to be completely open and present their view point.

Be honest and straight. It is best to use simple and straight language that doesn’t beat around the bush. Maintain equanimity both mental and verbal. This will help you handle the discussion better. Take care to keep the tone even; this will not put the person on the other end on a defensive mode. The chances of the discussion resulting in a compromise or a situation that is beneficial to both sides will be way higher.

Make sure you give the other person a chance and comfort level to speak his or her mind. Listen without interrupting. Avoid dominating the discussion. Don’t hasten to put your viewpoint across. If you do this, it simply means that you have not heard the other person fully but were busy planning your response instead. Before responding, take your time to think over, evaluate your response from as many different perspectives as it’s possible for you. For words once spoken cannot be taken back.

Keep a reign on your temper for best results. If you let your temper take over the conversation, be prepared to face a temper outburst from the opposite person. Desist from being judgmental, as it can hamper your objectivity. Maintain eye contact, apart from helping you convey your own feelings, it also helps you to be receptive about the other person’s sincerity and intentions.

Difficult conversations are surely not a cake-walk but following the above tips should pave the road to some extent and make the ride less bumpy.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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  • Michael J. Spangle

    A very wise man named James once gave the following three pieces of advice in a letter:
    1. Be quick to hear.
    2. Be slow to speak.
    3. Be slow to wrath.
    If a person follows these three pieces of advice it will make many such discussions go smoother.

  • Douglas J. Turnbull

    Like in everything else you must diffuse the situation and allow the steam and emotion out of the situation if you can. Listen and make sure you have all the facts, not all clients tell the truth. I have always used this response when I customer comes up and says – “hey you the manager here, I have a problem”, I say no sir I have the opportunity to solve an issue for you! But, I have been punched, spit on, had a window kick in and been told I made a comment that would be slanderous if I had made it. We a dealing with People and their Money, it gets real personal real fast!

  • Thank you for sharing this article. How we ask a question is extremely important. As most of you may already know communication is only 10-20% verbal. The devil is in the details. Tone, gestures, body language to name a few. As a master practitioner and trainer of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) I teach my client the ways to effectively ask a question to get the answer they want, as well as diffusing a volatile situation. One example would be instead of asking someone “Why did you do that?” it is more productive to ask “I’m curious what specifically did you have in mind when you did X?” It is less threatening and not open ended, you will get a much more detailed answer to help you with addressing the matter on hand. If you do not already know about NLP I highly suggest that you look into it further. It is a powerful tool in any business.

  • Adetola Sikiru

    I thinks applying this will help a lot.
    “When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say, and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

  • Adel Hafez

    Really in such situation I used to do the following:
    1- calm myself down, and start to listen to what others are saying.
    2- give myself a quit time to think and build my point of view,
    3- take my chance and start the discussion with the optimum ideas.
    So by the time the discussion becomes hot
    4- be aware of the strategies of the opposite side.
    5- In such case you have to change your idea by the influence to the
    discussion, for you not to lose the leading position.

    Mainly you have to figure a way to be the leader and controller of this discussion; otherwise you will lose your point of view. Also this way will help all parties to have a calm and smooth talk.

    If this discussion face to face one therefore you have to use all the three sense of human (vision, sense, and hearing) to control all parties.

    This not means that it succeeds every time, but with me it is working in most cases.

    Leader has to improve his communication skills, with management skills to make the right combinations.

  • I have had a few really difficult conversations and always start with having some compassion for the situation and/or the individual. I’m also honest, respectful and listen to ensure the other person has a chance to feel heard. When it is over, I take a deep breath and then sit quietly for a while.

  • B M Gupta

    I liked the updates. these are very interesting. let me read more