5 Soft Skills Tips to Help With Difficult Conversations

Test readers, or beta readers as my publisher called them, were instrumental to making my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS practical and grounded in the realities of the current workplace. These were people working in demanding jobs across multiple countries who read my book in the early stages and provided input and feedback.

One area where they inputted notably was the concept of putting a monetary value on soft skills.

Difficult Conversations

Managers are often hesitant to have what they call ‘difficult conversations.’ These are typically conversations with someone about something you don’t like, or they aren’t doing properly. These conversations are all about soft skills – knowing yourself and the other person and skilfully influencing them to a better outcome. These conversations have a cost, or more importantly not having these conversations has a cost – someone is doing something incorrectly. Said more positively, someone could be doing their work better, more efficiently, having a better outcome, being more effective, doing something more easily. When you think about this it is rather unkind to have someone perform poorly and not tell them, help them, encourage them, teach them.

How To Have Difficult Conversations – 5 Tips

  1. Stop thinking of them as difficult. Start thinking of them as helpful and constructive.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes. What might they be thinking or feeling in general? about this work? This is a bit part of emotional intelligence – awareness of other peoples’ emotions, thoughts, situation.
  3. Be of service to the other person. Make it less about what you want or need and more about what might help them, serve them best in their job or career.
  4. Listen and not just talk. A conversation is by definition an exchange of ideas between 2 or more people, don’t make it a monologue.
  5. Think of times someone has had a difficult conversation with you whether it was done well or not (if you haven’t had one think harder, both professionally and personally). Think of one you’ve seen on TV or in a movie. What did they do well? What was tone, vocabulary, pace, location, body language, mindset? If it wasn’t great, what wasn’t great about and how would you change it to make it better? Use these ideas to plan your conversation.

Read more about the cost of avoiding these conversations in my article Why Soft Skills Aren’t Fluffy? For TLNT.