Whether you are a business leader or HR Manager, difficult conversations are inevitable in the workplace, but just because they are unavoidable, it doesn’t make them easy.

How then, can you prepare to make difficult conversations that little bit easier on all involved? Here are some tips to help.

Take a different approach

If you believe that a conversation is going to be “difficult” you can already have your defences up and be experiencing an emotional response in advance like feeling nervous, upset and anxious. But consider reframing the conversation in your mind and changing your approach to it.

Take for instance the separation conversation in redundancy, the focus of the conversation is not to end an employee’s career with the company, but to support and empower them to embark on their next career opportunity. While the conversation may still be challenging for both of you, you are approaching the conversation with the transitioning employee’s needs and best interest at heart.

Prepare talking points – not a speech

Preparation is needed to make sure you address everything you need to, but it’s important not to over-prepare. Have some key talking points that can act as prompts through your conversation, but don’t prepare a speech. If you do, there is a risk that you will come across as cold, calculating, unengaged and inauthentic, and that will make things more difficult – not less.

Talking points allow you to still partake in a conversation, to hear the other person’s point of view and be present, common courtesies that serve you well during difficult conversations.

Be compassionate

One of the most powerful preparation techniques you can do is to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes before you engage in conversation. How would you want someone to approach the conversation? What would make you feel at ease? How would you want to be treated through the conversation?

Approaching conversations with compassion and emotional intelligence will ensure you stay focused on the other person’s needs while you are talking and not on your own. Not only will this make the other person feel that you are approachable, but it will also help you keep your emotions in check.

Don’t play the victim

We can often use victim language without realising it, so you need to be mindful of it as you prepare your talking points. We use victim language in a bid to make the other person feel sorry for us before we hit them with a blow, “I don’t want to have to say this, but…”, “This is so hard for me to do, but…” and “I feel so bad in saying this, but…”

Instead, LISTEN. Take an interest in how this affects the other person and how they are feeling. Acknowledge what they are going through and offer them support and understanding.

Reflect and learn

One of the most important parts of a difficult conversation happens after it has concluded – the self-reflection and learning that comes from it. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What could I have said or done differently?
  • Would a different approach have got a better outcome?
  • What went well through the conversation and what didn’t?
  • What reactions did I have that I can learn from and change for future conversations?

Do you have a difficult conversation coming up in your workplace?

At Turning Point Partners, we can help you and your team prepare for difficult conversations like redundancy and be available onsite for the conversation that follows immediately after the separation conversation. Call us today on 1300 27 83 45 to make your next difficult conversation – easier.