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Tips for Handling Difficult Discussions at Work

Handling Conflict through Discussion

Human Resource professionals know that an organization’s most valuable asset is high-performing talent. In today’s competitive world where organizations struggle to retain the best people, promoting a positive culture where employees thrive is a top priority. Studies show that strained relationships between employees result in almost 80% of the difficulties within the organization.

Handling Conflict through Discussion

The conflict in the workplace that strain relationships can lead to difficult discussions. Some people try to avoid uncomfortable conversations because they are afraid they will be placing the relationship with their co-worker in jeopardy. Others fear “rocking the boat” because of possible repercussions.

As stressful as it is to have a difficult conversation, not dealing with the situation can be worse. Handled correctly, difficult discussions can lead to improved communication, innovative ideas and more effective outcomes for the organization. Here are tips to communicate effectively and find solutions you both can live with:

1. Focus on the Individuals

Think about the temperament of the individuals involved – including yourself – before starting the conversation. Issues may result from personality differences and personal preferences. For example, some co-workers might feel comfortable when tasks are organized and predictable, while others favor a more spontaneous and flexible approach. This strategy requires self-awareness.

2. Be Prepared

Think about the purpose of the discussion and what you hope will come out of it. Be honest about whether or not you are overreacting. If you realize that you are being more emotional than the situation warrants, figure out why. It may be that the other person is “pushing your buttons” and triggering an overly emotional response that is not proportional to the issues at hand.

3. Make Predictions

Before the meeting, think about what your opponent is likely to say about the situation and try to predict what s/he is likely to offer as a solution. Be honest with yourself and consider whether or not you would be able to accept that solution.

4. Be Non-Confrontational

Open the conversation in a non-confrontational way with a neutral request to sit down and talk things out. You might reach out to your opponent by saying something like:

· There is something I would like to talk to you about that can help us work better together

· I need your help with something. Can we talk?

· I think we have different ideas about (the issue). I would like to hear your thinking on this.

Setting the right tone can help you come to a positive agreement.

5. Practice the Art of Active Listening

Invite the other person to address the issue at hand. Keep in mind that your goal is to come away with a successful outcome. Listen actively to what the other person is saying – or not saying, and practice empathy by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

6. So, You’re Saying…

A crucial step in the process is to acknowledge that you understand what the other person is telling you. This does not mean that you both suddenly agree. It means that you hear (understand) the other person’s point of view. You might say something like, “I hear you saying that…” or “From what you said, I can see…”

7. Now It’s Your Turn

To keep the discussion calm and respectful, make sure the other person is finished speaking before you begin. Then state your position without minimizing your opponent’s position. Don’t be afraid to point out the things you may see from your own perspective that your opponent may have missed. Use “I messaging” by telling the other person your feelings, concerns and needs without placing blame.

8. Brainstorm Solutions

Now that you and your opponent understand each other’s point of view, it is time to come up with solutions that can work for everyone going forward. Ask the opponent for solutions that they

think might work. Defuse the situation by mentioning something s/he said that you liked. If the conversation becomes heated, go back to Step 5 and ask the person to explain.

Navigating Conflict

At True Colors, we help organizations create a culture of success where every employee feels understood and empowered. True Colors drives positive change in organizations around the world by encouraging leaders and staff to embrace individual personality differences. We use personality tests based on proven temperament theory to teach leaders and co-workers personal awareness for improved communication, engagement, collaboration and productivity.

When you partner with True Colors, an experienced Master Trainer will help evaluate your needs and set realistic, achievable goals. We help your organization thrive by implementing programs that meet challenges in leadership, team building and conflict. Our customized programs include online personality testing, consulting sessions, workshops, live events and keynote speaking engagements.