64. Difficult Conversations Don’t Need to Suck

Advocating for yourself, confronting a coworker, asking for a raise…these courageous conversations are nerve wracking at best and in some cases, cause great anxiety. But avoiding difficult conversations is not an option if you want ease, meaning and joy at work. 


As most of us know – things are bad out there.  We are fractured about politics, COVID, black lives and all sort of other things.  As we have become fractured and unable to engage in meaningful conversation about our positions, beliefs and opinions, we “other” each other.  

“Pew Research did a study of 10,000 American adults, and they found that at this moment, we are more polarized, we are more divided, than we ever have been in history. We’re less likely to compromise, which means we’re not listening to each other. And we make decisions about where to live, who to marry and even who our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe. Again, that means we’re not listening to each other. A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance.” Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation.  When we do not know and understand each other, it is easier for us to dismiss, denigrate and discriminate against each other. 

It turns out not addressing difficult issues is also creating problems at work.  We spend almost three hours a week at work dealing with a workplace conflict caused by people who should have taken part in a difficult/courageous conversation.  About a third of these conflicts lead to personal injury or attacks, 22% of us are sick because of these conflicts and about a third of us leave our jobs because of one of these conflicts that could be solved with difficult conversations.  The Work Conversations We Dread the Most, According to Research

What makes a difficult conversation so hard? It turns out that it is fear and embarrassment.  Emotions are high – we are angry, upset, frustrated, disappointed.  We are afraid we will lose something we will care about or something will challenge our identity and sense of self.

Once you identify an issue that calls for a difficult or courageous conversation – get yourself ready.  BE CURIOUS.  ASSUME THE BEST INTENTIONS IN THE OTHER PERSON AND GET OUT OF FAULT AND BLAME.

Once we get into the right mindset, we can plan our conversation.

What is the purpose?

What are your assumptions?

What emotional buttons do you anticipate being “pushed” and how do you keep calm when that happens?

What is your attitude about the conversation?

What are your needs and fears?

We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations | Judy Ringer

Plan the first thing you will say in the conversation.  Getting off on the right foot is important?  What is your opening line?

During the conversation ask questions, acknowledge the other person’s feelings and position, advocate for your position without minimizing the other person and be solution oriented.13 Ways To Have Difficult Conversations With Clients

Let’s get out there and have that difficult conversation in the most courageous way – we can do it!