Do you avoid difficult conversations?

Photo credit - Korney Violin via

Photo credit – Korney Violin via

Do you avoid difficult conversations? I do. Not always. But sometimes I find some things stall me. It is usually when there is a lot at stake for me. My most used strategy – avoidance. Unfortunately – it is not always the best approach. Here are a few tips that might help.

Having difficult conversations can be many and varied. Whether it is to give critical/constructive feedback, explain a change to work arrangements or back out of a long-organised social event, they can all be anxiety-provoking. Whilst avoidance may be your preference, Harvard researcher  Deborah Rowland, suggests otherwise.

Her advice? It’s better to address difficult conversations head-on. Here’s how:

  • Shift your mindset.
    How you see the conversation is important. If you frame it in your own mind as difficult – it will be. Alternatively, see it as an opportunity. You can strengthen relationship bonds between yourself and the person you are to talk to.
  • Regulate your emotions.
    Acknowledge the emotions running through you when you contemplate having a challenging conversation. If you can recognise these and “put them to one side” mentally, you are more able to feel you are in control. Then choose to focus, on the task at hand.
  • Be direct.
    Address the conversation directly and honestly, while also expressing compassion. Skirting around a subject sends a message that you find the conversation difficult and are “avoiding” it.

What are your strategies for difficult conversations?  Would you share them here?

Source: Rowland, Deborah. 2016. What’s Worse than a Difficult Conversation? Avoiding One. Harvard Business Review. 8 April 2016.

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