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Tough Conversations

You know the ones … you dread them.  The conversation with the under performing employee, the conversation with your parents about bending the car or maybe the conversation with the unhappy client.  It can even be much worse, a discussion about a relationship that isn’t working or a health problem that you have.

Here are some thoughts about TOUGH conversations:

1.  Like most situations, PROCRASTINATION won’t help.

2.  Have the conversation in appropriate setting.  For example sending an email to tell someone they are fired is not appropriate, having that conversation in a private office (preferably with a HR representative) is!  If you are going to have a relationship discussion you might NOT want to do it on the bus, sitting down in a private space might work best.

3.  Think through all of your pertinent points.  Perhaps write out note and ensure you have your thoughts collected before having the conversation.

4.  Try to keep emotions in check.  Tough conversations will always bring more emotion, but sticking to facts and avoiding inflammatory comments will make it as smooth as possible.

5.  Listen as much as you talk.  If the other person receives monologue with no opportunity for dialogue then that would be called a speech … a conversation is a two-way communication.

6.  Have the conversation when you are most energetic … for most people that may be first thing in the day.  Tiredness or alcohol are not likely to help such a conversation.

7.  If possible don’t make it a surprise.  A performance discussion should not be a surprise, nor should a relationship discussion.  Sometime this is not avoidable, but a surpise might elicit a stronger response … so be prepared.

8.  Tough conversations don’t have to always happen in one go.  You might agree that there is a situation, and agree to put the facts on the table … but come back after a little time to discuss those facts.  This way both sides come to the table prepared.

9.  IF you are in the situation where you MUST deliver a tough message, and it IS a surprise, and the timing is NOT very good … then just do it with as much humanity as possible (think how you would feel in their position.  Then go and drink scotch!