“There are no classes in life for beginners,” wrote poet Rainer Maria Rilke. “Right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.”
Saying the hard thing can be one of the most difficult things we ever do but it’s crucial in a business setting. Getting the important stuff done is honestly impossible without it. And for many of us, just thinking about doing it can cause worry, fear, and stress. The good news is that getting these conversations right has more to do with a little planning and practice than trying to say “just the right thing.” And when we have the courage to broach these hard topics with our business partners, leaders or associates, there are often hidden rewards.
The Benefits of Speaking Up
Difficult conversations have the power to get you what you really want in life and business. They can clear the air between you and someone else and give your self-esteem a real boost.
In most cases, these conversations, if avoided, will lead to bigger issues down the road. I can’t tell you how many clients have put off these conversations with employees, only to end up having to fire someone. Then, once they’re gone, they realize what a mess they left behind with clients, co-workers and the quality of their work. Having the conversation could have prevented bigger problems.
Revealing how you honestly feel and what you really want is a life-long practice that leads to better outcomes. Regardless of what happens or how the other person responds, making your true self visible is showing integrity, courage, and strength. You’ll earn respect from others and be more at peace with yourself.
Setting the Stage for a Productive Conversation
1. Bring it up. It’s wishful thinking to hope that the other person will broach a hard topic. In some cases, he or she may not even be aware of the need. That means, like it or not, it’s up to you. Just be mindful that certain conversations require the right timing and location. Choose both, carefully.
2. Be clear on your intention. Are you discussing a sensitive topic to make a decision, reveal what you’ve already decided, make a request, or something else? Being clear about why you are having the conversation—and what you hope to get out of it, your objective(s). This will help you frame what you want to say in a way they can hear it.
3. Be mindful of your mindset. Sidestep the tendency to blame and assume you know exactly what is going on. Leave room in your frame of mind for discovery and revelation. Stay curious. Remember how much you care for the person and be mindful of your common interests to achieve a positive outcome. Envision how you’d like your relationship to be after the conversation.
4. Rehearse. It can be helpful to practice your conversation by writing in a journal or talking it through with a trusted friend or objective party. This will help you become more familiar with your feelings and point of view, and help you relax before you say the hard thing.
5. Set the tone: Use “I” messages. “You” statements tend to assign blame. For example, rather than saying, “You hurt my feelings,” it is better to use an “I“ message and say, “I feel hurt.” If you’re afraid, say what you’re afraid of at the beginning of the conversation. For instance, “I’m really nervous you won’t like what I want to share there will be a tension between us. I don’t want that.” Then take a deep breath and begin.
Saying the hard thing is like any other exercise: every time you do it, you’re building muscle…and your hard work will unquestionably pay off in more meaningful relationships and much better business results in the end.
Often these difficult conversations are signs of more systemic people issues. That’s our area of expertise. To help business owners and leaders become more aware of their barriers to having these conversations, we’ve developed a powerful and complimentary “Confident Leader Insight Assessment.” You’ll discover how to have better conversations knowing your particular communication and behavioral style. Click HERE to take this brief but powerful assessment.
TIP: Share with your employees and manually plot yourselves on the graph as a team to see how diverse you are in thought, behavior and communication. We can also discuss a custom report for your team to accelerate the RPRS (Right People Right Seats) process.
Even though we may have your name and email on record, the system asks for it anyway to send you a unique assessment link. Your information will not be shared. The report is immediate and if you’d like a little more interpretation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click the button below to schedule a complimentary laser session to go over your results and receive a sample new hire assessment report.
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