Magazine article Management Today

How to Have a Difficult Conversation

Magazine article Management Today

How to Have a Difficult Conversation

Article excerpt

Most people dread difficult conversations, whether they're about poor performance, bad body odour or the worst-case scenario - redundancy. 'But it's usually difficult for both parties,' explains MT's First-Class Coach, Miranda Kennett. 'The secret of making sure it goes well is to put yourself in the other person's shoes and not dwell on your fear and embarrassment.' But that's just the start of mastering the art of the tricky chat ...

Get ready

As our Olympians know well, every hard feat is made easier with preparation. Start by considering what the ideal outcome of the conversation would be, whether it's getting people to change their behaviour or to keep their dignity after you've told them that they're losing their job.

'If you're nervous, practise at home until you find a form of words and a tone of voice which is firm, clear but friendly,' advises Kennett. 'The more you sound like a critical parent or a schoolteacher, the more resistant the other will be to your message.'

It's also important to pick the right location. Says Dr Stephen Harding, a director at HR consultant Towers Watson, 'it must be done face-to-face and privately'. And the location should match the message. The boss's office might be appropriate if you're giving a dressing-down, but a neutral place would be better suited to making a redundancy.

Stick to the facts

To avoid a confrontation or bitchy slanging match, you must keep things specific and never make it personal. Although it's difficult, try not to get emotional - avoid anger at all costs. A good way to start might be to admit that this will be a difficult conversation for both of you so the other person is warned and has a chance to prepare for it.

Describe actual behaviours and avoid the infamous 'feedback sandwich' (good-bad-good). It comes across as disingenuous and dilutes the impact of your message. …

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