How To Handle Difficult Conversations Blog Header

As advancements in technology and increased access to information have made some aspects of our jobs easier, there are still many areas of the workplace that present the same challenges they did decades ago. In fact, it can be argued that the millennial generation entering the workforce now is facing regression in verbal communication skills and conflict resolution. As employees that grew up with cell phones and text messaging, the generation flooding the workforce today has had less experience talking on the phone and in-person than previous generations.

This presents a challenge, with a majority of employees struggling with how to handle difficult conversations, constructive criticism, and conflict management.  As a result, employers are faced with the need for workforce training and leadership development, to help cultivate and train employees on how to handle difficult conversations with clients, co-workers, and managers. As Human Resource departments handle the conversations and training around the topic of conflict resolution, the following three areas have been identified as ways to mitigate and reduce the negative impact of difficult conversations.

Active Listening

We are trained to be prepared and come into conversations with ideas, solutions, and talking points. While this advice is generally recommended, if it’s overdone, it can lead to dominating a conversation and not getting to the root of the issue. Instead, by taking a deep breath and asking clarifying questions, you will typically uncover more information than what was initially communicated. Remember, not every problem can be solved after a 30-minute conversation. Take time to actively listen, diagnose the issues, and talk to the person about recommended solutions.

Reframe the Issue  

Using the term “difficult conversation” can create added stress and anxiety for the individuals involved. Instead, focus on the common ground between both people. In many cases, this can be the mission of the company. If both employees can agree on the mission of the company or organization, it can serve as the guiding light in finding a solution or resolving a conflict.

Clarify and Re-Communicate

During and after a conversation around conflict, schedule time to check back and follow up with the co-worker or employee. In many cases, people will process the conversation after time has passed. Following up, you can allow things to resonate with the other person and remind them of anything they may have forgotten in the heat of the moment.