How to Have Difficult Conversations

No one likes to have difficult conversations, but avoiding them can prevent a relationship from moving forward.

Can you think of one person that you need to confront about a specific situation? If you’re like most people, there are probably a few you can think of. You know the ones I’m talking about: The one you need to forgive, the relationship that has gone stale, the co-worker who slacks off and comes in late or the family member who needs to grow up and become a mature adult.

If you’re a leader, you simply cannot avoid difficult conversations. Unfortunately, not everyone initiates the “talk” during those crucial moments when it is most necessary.

When I was younger, I avoided them entirely. I was a people-pleaser. I wanted everyone to be happy with me. If I sensed anyone in my presence becoming frustrated or angry, I would do everything within my power to make them happy, even at the risk of looking like an idiot.

If you are going to impact the lives of those around you with direction, purpose, and drive, you need to understand that it is a leader’s responsibility to execute effective communication with family, friends, and co-workers. Sure, some people may not be happy, but you will hold back your team by avoiding the “talk.”

How do you  handle problems with a family member, friend, spouse, or coworker? Do you hesitate? Waiting only creates more delays. Sometimes thinking too much about a problem only creates frustration and stress. Do you explode with anger? There are productive ways to release strong emotions.

As I write this, I can think of only one great solution: Be strong and courageous!

Initiating difficult conversations is a skill that you need to cultivate. It improves over time as your communication with others becomes more authentic.  I have learned to reframe my perception of difficult conversations from “I don’t want to create conflict” to “Talking it out strengthens the relationship.”

Visualize the people with whom you have been avoiding difficult conversations. Use these  steps to manage difficult conversations:

Prepare Your State of Mind

Before you initiate the conversation, what are your feelings about your emotional state? How do you think this will impact the other person? Take the time to reframe any negative or judgmental thoughts.

Every person you encounter is more valuable then the work they are doing. Its important to remember, though not everyone is perfect, each of us are on a separate journey – impacted by our personal history and self-concept.

It’s Better to Address It Early

It’s never a good idea to avoid a problem, only to have it linger and grow into an even bigger issue. Never hope that a problem will just go away, it won’t as long as you resist and delay the conversation. When you muster the courage to confront the truth, if done right – you’ll earn the respect of your colleagues and build a deeper foundation in your relationships with others. Nothing spells success like trust, trust with family, trust with coworkers, trust with your spouse.

Assume the Best

Nothing will have a greater impact on those around you then your attitude. It can either go sideways or it can create a platform for others to reach their potential. Your words have that much of an effect on people, whether you see it or not.

Encourage the person you are speaking to, lift their spirits, ease their anxiety, speak words of hope, see their potential to become greater then they currently are.

Be Sincere, Honest, and Balanced in Your Approach

Leaders should be honest yet tactful, authentic yet graceful in their approach. There are times when telling the truth can feel wrong, but don’t underestimate the power of honesty. Personally, I don’t want to live my life with my head in the sand nor do I want those around me doing the same. Nothing will ever get better by ignoring it.

Agree on a Course of Action

There is nothing more frustrating then coming out of a meeting not understanding what to do next. I’ve been there many times with various managers and co-workers. Define a solution as quickly as possible and create goals to reach a greater outcome.


Are You a Trustworthy Leader?

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