A Strategy for Difficult Conversations

A Strategy for Difficult Conversations 150 150 Christy Largent

It was lunch and we were taking a break from our train day. I listened as the senior executives were talking about the various personalities represented on their leadership team. They were unanimous in calling out the leader of a department who was so easy going that among the company, he was known as “Mr. Laid Back.” Although competent at the processes of his department, his refusal to have any difficult conversation with his staff, had lead to levels of disrespect, disorder and more concerning, missed goals and objectives.

With this discussion in mind, I realized that although many leaders are natural at handling conflict and disagreements, there are also many for whom the prospect of potential conflict drives them in the other direction.

As you well know, an unwillingness to professionally address problems just leads to larger, more difficult to solve, troubles.

In an effort to help walk through conversational challenges, I have put together a strategy you can tap into if you need to address a difficult (whatever that means to you) situation.

Step 1:  Evaluate What’s Keeping You From the Conversation

Sometimes we put off having the difficult conversation because we are worried about the outcome, or are afraid things will get worse. The first thing you need to do is evaluate your concern and figure out what your hesitancy really is, so you can address it with the truth, and then move forward.

Step 2:  Specify Exactly What is Bothering You

What is the specific action that the person is doing that is bothering you? Get as absolutely specific as you can. Details matter! Figure out the specific thing you need to address. (One action at a time please. And be sure to avoid judgements like lazy, inconsiderate, don’t care, etc.)

For example, if your assistant has developed a habit of coming in late, rather than saying, “You’ve really been slacking off lately…” which is super general and basically unhelpful, you will want to get super specific and take note of the days he is late, so you can address the exact incidences. ie., “When you were 15 minutes late on Monday, 10 minutes late on Wednesday and 20 minutes late on Friday…”

Step 3:  Identify Your Desired Outcome

Why do you want to have this conversation and what would be the best possible outcome from the conversation? What do you want them to do in response to what you tell them? Take time to identify this before you even start the conversation.

Step 4: The Difficult Conversation Formula

When You _____(specific behavior you want to change)__________________________

I felt/was __________(effect their behavior had on you and/or team)______________

Because _______(elaborate on your emotion-this gives impact to your feeling)______

I want you to ____(changed behavior you desire)_____________________________ 

For example:

When you were 10 minutes late Monday and 20 minutes late on Friday

I was distracted

Because I had to catch the phones rather than get started on my work.

I want you to be here on time, or make arrangements for someone else to cover your phone. (Only if being tardy is really ok with you.)

Step 5: Enjoy your Improved Relationship 🙂

This conversation will get the ball rolling on a better, more honest and open relationship. You may not solve it all with one conversation, but at least you will clarify your thoughts, feeling and expectations so you are able to lead with clarity.

If you would like a PDF of this information in worksheet form, just click here for your own copy.

I’d love to know your results as you apply this strategy. Shoot me an email or text and share your feedback!

Christy Largent is a positivity expert and professional speaker. She is hired by corporations and associations that want their employees/members to boost morale, increase teamwork and strengthen communication skills. When she’s not speaking or writing, she’s practicing her stand up skills sitting down, driving her 2 kids to tennis and lacrosse events all across the Dallas metroplex. Contact her at 530-949-3646 for help maximizing your organization.

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