Leading difficult conversations

How often in your day to day life are you avoiding difficult conversations, believing the situation will go away and solve itself if we wait long enough? Did it really go away and solve the situation once and for all? Probably not…. It might have disappeared for a while only to rear its ugly head again some time later.

We all know this, yet we still keep doing it.  Have you ever wondered why and asked yourself “What would happen if I faced my fear and had the conversation?”  Facing the fear in this case is most likely to be the least obstacle to overcome. The harder one is to know how to hold a difficult conversation so that we don’t create conflict or/and bad feelings.

Does this sound familiar to you? I certainly can recall a number of such instances from my past, such as: A person very close to you has “betrayed” you by attending an event as a VIP that goes against everything that is important to you. The person decided to attend even though you had a conversation beforehand, letting them know how going to this event would betray you. Even though you left the choice to decide for themselves, you trusted their judgement and the value of your relationship that they would make the “right” decision.

Weeks on and through a coincidence you found out, that they attended and not only that, but actively took fully part in the dreaded activity! Blood boiling, disappointment, sadness and sleepless nights… all are emotions that followed: the person dear and close to you has chosen to act against all that you stand for!! Now, the point is not that they decided to attend, it is rather that they had been too cowardly to talk to you and let you know their reasons for doing it! An avoided difficult conversation that lead to another potential for an avoided difficult conversation and looming conflict – not a small one at that!!

There are some other examples with similar outcomes from the workplace in a project I was running and with one of my bosses.  All this trouble because of a lack of a clear agreement in the first place, can you believe it? So what have I learnt from this?

These experiences have led me to create the following 10 steps, which give me a check list and safety net – some kind of an anchor – to remind me and stick to in order to use difficult conversations for what they are meant to be: an opportunity to de-escalate conflict; build trust and therefore the relationship; create an agreement and thus respect and gravitas.