Navigating the murky waters of a workplace conflict, regardless of whether you’re the mediator or a participant, is a true challenge. In many cases, these conflicts arise when there is the need for a crucial conversation, but one or both parties don’t approach the issue correctly.
Luckily, there are ways to have difficult, sensitive conversations in a way that is both respectful and productive – it’s just a matter of learning how. Let’s take a closer look at three of the best components of successful crucial conversations.
Establishing your intent means you preface the conversation with the goal you intend to achieve from having it.
1. Establish your intent, and consider theirs
When confronted by an uncomfortable or sensitive topic, many people’s natural reaction is to become defensive. In fact, this is almost always the case – even people who are often given feedback find themselves bristling when a crucial conversation arises. For that reason, it’s important to establish your intent from the beginning of the conversation, says VitalSmarts author Emily Hoffman.
What does this mean in practice? It means you preface the conversation with the goal you intend to achieve from having it. Explain to the person (before you even touch on the issues themselves) what you are hoping to clear up by having a discussion. This makes it clear to them that you’re not simply lashing out or being mean-spirited.
It’s also key for you to consider their intent – there’s a good chance that whatever issue you have with them was not something they were consciously doing to upset you. Keep this in mind when you have the conversation.
Establishing a safe environment is important for setting up a crucial conversation at work.
2. Using persuasion, not abrasion
As widespread as the ridiculous term ‘alternative facts’ has become recently, there really is no such thing – there is fact, and there is opinion. In a crucial conversation, it’s important to start by laying out the facts of the issue and building a feeling of safety with the other person, according to thought leader VitalSmarts. What happened? What do we know to be true? If this is done in an unbiased, straightforward way, the conversation can proceed.
There really is no such thing as ‘alternative facts’ – there is fact, and there is opinion.
From there, you can begin to discuss how those facts made you feel – be advised, though, that opinions tend to be more hotly contested than facts. Aggressively trying to persuade someone to see things from your point of view right off the bat rarely pays off. If you’ve built a theoretical safety net with gentle words and facts, though, you’ll have much better luck.
3. Focus on finding a solution
The most important thing to remember, especially in the heat of the moment, is to focus the majority of the conversation around finding a solution. It can be tempting to spend the bulk of the time hashing out every small grievance you have with the other person, but this will get you nowhere. Instead, Forbes author Travis Bradberry suggests that you accompany every challenge with a solution.
If the other person has a counterpoint to what you’re saying or a point you don’t agree with, offer a feasible alternative rather than shutting down and saying ‘no’. This shows that you’re willing to work together to find a compromise.
Focus your crucial conversations around finding a solution that benefits both parties
There. That wasn’t so bad, was it? With these tips in mind, professionals can begin having crucial conversations with their colleagues that ultimately leave everyone feeling happier and more fulfilled at work. For more suggestions like this, check out Reo’s blog!
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