Why Serious Discussions Deserve Serious Planning
Whether you’ve got something to confess or there is someone’s behavior you’d like to address, having a difficult conversation with someone should be done with lots of care and thought. It may be hard to resist the urge to just blurt out your feelings or opinions when they come to mind, but surprising someone with an impromptu serious discussion is never the way to go for several reasons:
1. They’ll feel attacked.
2. They’ll become angry or defensive.
3. They’ll shut you off and stop listening.
4. Nothing will be resolved.
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The Benefits of Being Prepared
Suppose you wanted to run a marathon. You wouldn’t just roll out of bed, toss on your sneakers and line up at the starting line without being prepared. If you did, you probably wouldn’t make it far, let alone get to the finish line. But if you want to cross the finish line, you know you have to train for months beforehand. You’d watch your diet, get the proper footwear and do all you could to get your mind and body prepared. It’s the same way with important talks and difficult discussions. Preparation is the difference between success and failure.
Whether you want to talk to an employee about their performance or why you might have to let them go, or if you need to sit your spouse down and tell them some deep, dark secret you’ve been hiding—there’s work to be done beforehand. Here are the four best things to do before having a difficult conversation, so that you get the desired results and hopefully resolve the situation.
1. Know Why You’re Initiating the Conversation
Make sure you know what the issue is and why you’re bringing it up. Is it an urgent matter, a new problem or an ongoing problem? What are the results you hope to achieve?
2. Practice Your Delivery
Practice what you say before you say it. How will you start the conversation? Are you considering how they’ll feel during this conversation? Figure out what you can do to be understanding or sympathetic if the topic calls for it. Make sure you are being clear and concise in what you say and keep track of your tone. You want to be caring or straightforward, not harsh or cold if you can. Also pay attention to your body language. Avoid finger pointing or scowling faces. Remain calm, cool and collected.
3. Remember to Listen
Remember that you are having a conversation with someone. That means you both get to speak. Give them time to react and listen to what they have to say without interrupting them. It’s okay to have awkward silences, so don’t feel the need to fill the space up by repeating yourself over and over. Whether you’re confessing something or confronting someone, come from a place of peace.
4. Don’t Anticipate the Outcome
You may think you know the outcome before you even have the conversation, but that assumption could affect your approach. For example, if you assume their guilt, you may come off as punishing or aggressive. There’s more than one outcome to every difficult conversation and the outcome may be one you didn’t consider.
Don’t have your next difficult conversation without considering even one of these four tips. You want to come off as someone who is interested in an amicable outcome. Remember to be open and be prepared. This is the best way to be in the moment.