Difficult conversations happen. People don’t always get along, and we don’t always express our conflict in constructive ways. Instead of letting a grudge simmer, face it head on by talking about it honestly. Here are six tips that can help you get through difficult conversations at work and at home:
1. TAKE A BREAK.
Take some time to calm down and assess the situation before speaking to whomever you’re at odds with.
2. BE POSITIVE.
The Harvard Business Review’s Amy Gallo suggests putting this conversation in a constructive light. What will you gain from it? If you’re talking to your boss about your suspicions that you’re getting passed over for juicy assignments in favor of less-experienced colleagues, for instance, think of it not as a complaint but as an opportunity to ask for more challenging work that utilizes your skill set fully. Thinking about the constructive outcomes of the conversation for all parties involved can help it seem less emotionally daunting.
3. WALK THROUGH THE CONVERSATION IN YOUR HEAD.
Come prepared with what you want to say. Have you considered the other person’s point of view? How would you respond to it? Think through how you think the conversation might go, realistically, and examine the issue from viewpoints other than your own. You’ll be more prepared for pushback if it does come, and you’ll be more equipped to articulate your points. Or maybe, you'll see the other person's point in a whole new light.
4. KNOW YOURSELF.
“We need to be conscious of aspects of our personalities that can help or hinder the process,” according to conflict-management recommendations from Dale Carnegie Training (which was founded by the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People). If you know you tend to be overly defensive or aggressive in serious conversations, be aware of that and keep it in mind as you are talking.
5. VENT BEFOREHAND.
While you may not want to tell mutual acquaintances all about your interpersonal issues, it can help to vent to a third party. Pent-up emotions have a habit of coming out in unexpected ways, so it’s important to express your feelings in a safe space, like with a friend who doesn’t know the offending colleague you’re dealing with. Talking through the issue may also help you organize the points you’d like to bring up when resolving the conflict.
6. REALIZE THAT YOU BOTH MEAN WELL.
Especially in the case of workplace conflicts, people aren’t usually acting from a malicious place. They might just have different ideas about how a project idea should be implemented. We don’t often act deliberately to hurt each other’s feelings. Recognize that having a conflict with someone doesn’t make them a bad person, and try to keep that in mind as you prepare to confront them.