Tips for difficult conversations

I’ve written before about having difficult conversations, and when working with a team it’s often just a matter of time before we all face a choice between ignoring a people-problem or dealing with it.

So I was pleased the other day when I came across a useful list of tips for approaching difficult conversations. They are by the author of a book on the subject, and in (very, very brief) summary they are:

  • Invite, don’t insist – have the conversation when it’s okay for them, not just when it’s okay for you.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Be curious, not opinionated.
  • Give unwelcome news gradually.
  • Site with distress without trying to “make it better”.
  • Don’t interrupt the silence.
  • Support, don’t “fix”.
  • End on a positive note.
  • Look after yourself.

The list was written for domestic, not work, conversations, but I still found it valuable. One thing I always try to do is “Be curious, not opinionated”, because I’m aware it’s easy to make assumptions about a situation or motives. However, it was particularly useful to see “pace yourself” on the list, as too often I’ve found myself speaking too much, too quickly, and not giving the other person a chance to consider what they’re hearing, or give feedback.

I don’t think the items on that list all work immediately for a work context, but they do all address a topic that’s not talked about enough. In the end, however we might use those tips, the article provides valuable advice that can help us all interact with each other more constructively.

Photo by moogiemedia