Two Myths about Challenging Work Conversations

Whether you run a multi-million dollar corporation or a small not-for-profit organization, the ability to have honest, open conversations on controversial topics is a vital skill for leaders. Two misconceptions that manager’s have about handling challenging conversations often get in the way:

  1. The best thing is to be objective and stick to the facts. While objectivity and facts are important, many times during a challenging conversation, our feelings surface whether we want them to or not. Feelings are a component of any situation whether it’s personal or professional. Simply sticking to the facts can block the opportunity to deal with both thoughts and emotions. Recent research shows that people often harden their position when only dealing with the facts anyway. To effectively deal with a difficult situation we need to talk about our feelings and reactions in a healthy way and without blaming the other person. 
  2. If you show empathy, it means you agree with the other person’s point of view. There is a difference between empathy and agreement. It’s good to let the other person know that we understand what they are saying and to acknowledge that we understand their position is true for them. But acknowledging that is simply respecting the person, not implying that you agree. Using phrases such as “I understand what you’re feeling, but I have a different perspective than you,” allows you to honor the person’s point of view without yielding to it. While it is difficult to acknowledge the other person’s point of view when you are angry or hurt, there are communication tools that can allow you to keep your cool, even in the most emotionally charged situations.

It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and to care about and connect with each other no matter what we are discussing.  Don’t let concerns that people will misread your intentions keep you from engaging in necessary conversations at work.  To learn more, check out the new Blanchard white paper, Challenging Conversations–Strategies for Turning Conflict into Creativity.

Also, join us for a free webinar on November 17, that’s when conflict resolution expert Eryn Kalish will be presenting on 5 Communication Skills for Transforming Conflict into Productivity

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