Avoiding Difficult Conversations?

Have an employee you need to correct or improve? Have a boss you’re struggling with? Have a new colleague or stakeholder you need to figure out how to influence?

Change your approach, it’s not about them, it’s about you!

This is something I’m noticing in my coaching and facilitating – people seem to be apprehensive about having certain conversations. Clients are often avoiding or making a bigger deal of some types of conversations. Clarifying expectations for an employee becomes a ‘difficult’ conversation. Learning about a new stakeholder becomes about ‘figuring out’ what motivates them. Telling a boss that you want something different in the interaction becomes ‘confronting’ the boss.

Language does impact our approach – if we think something will be difficult, it probably will be. If we think we need to confront someone, we probably will.

What if you just had a conversation with them? I want to change the way people converse to be less fearful, more open and coming from a place of curiosity and compassion.

What about something like:

Setting expectations – I appreciate you getting me that information and I expected it sooner (or more thought-through or whatever). What would have been necessary for you to have gotten it to me faster? And listen, get curious, find out what prevented them from doing it, as the answer might be that they just didn’t know that’s what you wanted.

Learning about a new colleague – ask them What motivates you? What brings out the best in you at work? Stop trying to figure it out (and certainly notice things about them) and ask them, share what works for you too (to help illustrate the type of info you’re looking for and to let them know some of your preferences).

Managing up – make a statement or suggestion of what you’d like more of rather than criticizing them. Rather than saying you don’t give me positive comments, try When I get occasional feedback about what I’m doing well it helps me better understand what works for you and motivates me to continue. You could then ask them a question to get their agreement to do it, like So after a meeting or presentation would it be helpful for me to ask what I did well as a reminder?

What conversations would you want to try differently?