Handling difficult conversations

Effectively handling difficult conversations in the workplace, whether with tenants, owners, suppliers or colleagues, involves thorough preparation, clear and empathetic communication, maintaining composure, and focusing on solutions.

Approaching difficult conversations with the right mindset and tools can transform potentially negative interactions into opportunities for growth and improved relationships.

Here are some strategies to help in resolving conflicts, building trust and fostering a positive work environment.

Preparation: When you know a difficult conversation is coming up, gather all your information and clearly define the issue and desired outcome before you start. This helps in presenting a well-structured case and keeps the discussion focused.

Clear communication: Use clear, concise language to articulate your points. Avoid jargon or ambiguous statements to ensure that your message is understood. If communicating via email, proofread your emails before sending them.

Active listening: Listen attentively to the other person's perspective without interrupting. Reflect what you've heard to show understanding and clarify any misunderstandings.

Empathy: Show empathy by acknowledging the other person’s feelings and perspective This helps in building trust and demonstrating that you value their input. Phrases like “I understand your frustration” or “Let’s see how we can make this right” can diffuse tension and build trust.

Calm demeanour: Maintain a calm and composed manner, even if the conversation becomes heated. Techniques like deep breathing and pausing before responding can help manage emotions.

Seek solutions: Focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problem. Collaborate with the other person to identify actionable steps to resolve the issue.

Apologise when necessary: Offer a sincere apology if appropriate. This can help to reduce tension and shows a willingness to take responsibility for any mistakes.

Follow up: Summarise the main points discussed and any agreed upon actions. Follow up with a subsequent meeting or communication to review progress and demonstrate accountability.