5 Steps for Tackling Tough Conversations

Business Woman Pointing To Coworker. He Refuses TaskIn a new article for Talent Management magazine, consultants Rachel Eryn Kalish and Pat Zigarmi, coauthors of The Ken Blanchard Companies Challenging Conversations training program, share how leaders can address intense and emotionally charged discussions with open, vibrant, and direct communication.

In an article titled, Conflict? Talk It Out, they explain that while most leaders recognize the importance of open and direct communication, many are reluctant to enter into these challenging conversations. That’s a mistake, according to the authors.  Withholding information or avoiding difficult discussions tends to make things worse. Dealing with conflict always calls for more communication, not less.

To help leaders more easily succeed with challenging conversations they face, the authors suggest a five-step process that can help both parties speak up without pushing the other person away.

5 Steps for Tackling Tough Conversations

  1. State concerns directly. Communicate in a way that doesn’t alienate the other person. Use “I” statements to describe your experience of the behavior you are seeing and to understand the essence of the issue.
  2. Probe for more information to gain a deeper understanding. Be patient and ask open-ended questions. Create a safe and supportive environment that is free of fear.
  3. Engage the other party through whole-hearted listening. Listen even when it is uncomfortable. Focus and understand what the other person is saying. Quiet your inner thoughts. Be fully present throughout the conversation.
  4. Attend to body language. Be able to spot discrepancies between what you are hearing and what you are seeing. If you notice body language that is inconsistent with what you are hearing, take an extra minute to explore further.
  5. Keep forward focused. Resist the urge to move ahead before everyone is ready. It is a delicate balance to make sure everyone has been heard while also keeping the focus on moving the conversation forward. Don’t be in a hurry—sometimes going slower is faster.

Leader who are able to resolve conflict in the workplace and who appreciate the value of different perspectives create a better place to work and live. Leaders who model these qualities demonstrate through their behavior how to convert potentially challenging situations into positive experiences. To learn more about Kalish and Zigarmi’s approach to dealing with emotionally charged conversations, be sure to check out their complete article in the October issue of Talent Management magazine.

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