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5 tips to master having difficult conversations at work.


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Do you know the changes in your body when you are about to have a difficult conversation with someone – the twirl in your stomach, the changes in your temperature, the sweat, the nervousness?  

 

Navigating difficult conversations can be challenging, whether it’s with a partner, friends, or at work. The discomfort we feel when having these conversations is natural as it activates our primal brain and our nervous system to either fight, flight, or freeze (the 3F). 

Yet, these conversations, often centered around sensitive topics like money or layoffs, were shown to offer significant benefits such as increased trust through shared vulnerability, or to strengthen relationships through shared discomfort. 

 

👋🏼 Hello there, I’m Petra and I am a designer, researcher, activist, and a founder of pstaboo, the first consultancy in the world that specialises in taboos. Here I am sharing with you 5 things that can help you lead difficult conversations with more ease:

 

  1. SEE THE OTHER ANGLE
    – there are different types of conversation – catch up, gossip, deep conversation, and a difficult one
  • Recognising that a difficult conversation is only a type of conversation and something we have to go through every now and then can normalise it and ease discomfort

  1. VOICE THE EMOTION
    Expressing your emotions upfront  has a twofold benefit – 1) after acknowledging our emotion we can more easily detach from it which makes the conversation less scary  2) it can bring empathy and engagement to the listener to bring together towards the solution. 

  2. USE THE ‘I’ SENTENCES
    Employing ‘I’ sentences shifts focus to actions and away from the person 
  • – that way it may seem less as blaming the individual and can prevent our listener from getting into the 3F and towards cooperation
  • –  using the ‘I’ sentences encourages our own exploration of feelings and being more accountable for how we feel (which may not have been the case for someone else)

  • IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU (EVEN WHEN IT IS)

Recognize that, even if you’re hurt, the priority in the conversation is addressing the other person’s feelings. Avoid derailing by revisiting past issues or going into the 3F,,  and focus on resolving their current emotions. Your personal emotions are a conversation for another time. 

  • PLAN IT (BEFORE & AFTER)

Before the talk: schedule a suitable time and place for your and for your listener, and possibly reserve about 30 minutes afterwards to cool down before getting into another thing

After the conversation: plan a way forward by either you providing how you wish for things to be handled in the future (if it was you bringing up the issue) or plan way forward together. And if you are the one being approached for the issue, be respectful and follow through to ensure trust in the relationship.  

 

How might this look in action? 

 

Before:

  • “Hey, are you free on Thursday for about 1h? I’d like to discuss something important.”

Expressing Emotion:

  • “I feel a bit nervous about this conversation, but I want us to resolve the situation.”

During the Conversation:

  • “When you did ___, I felt hurt. In the future, I hope for you to do ____.”

After:

  • “How would you like us to proceed in the future? Do you have something in mind or would you like us think of something together? “

____________

 

Thank you for reading this post. 

What are your experiences with difficult conversations?

 

✉️ Please let me know by connecting and writing to me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/petrasalaric/

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We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.
We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.