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How to Have Difficult Conversations

Categories: Other, Blog

difficult conversations

Things that are hard to say usually are the most important. Because of this, many people avoid difficult conversations in business and their personal lives. To effectively manage people, in business or personal relationships, you need to be able to speak about important matters. Letting important matters go unspoken is problematic for numerous reasons.

The problems include the potential for people you manage to continue to take actions or work in ways you think need to be tweaked or changed. If you don't have these conversations timely, they only can result in issues continuing into the future, making for even harder conversations and a lot of wasted time. It also includes the likelihood of a wedge being driven between you and whoever the other person is because, even though unspoken, these issues usually are apparent from body language and other indirect feedback. This can result in strained relations and passive aggressive behavior related to all things unsaid.

If you are uncomfortable having difficult conversations, there are ways to try and ease your discomfort. You can outline the points you want to get across and practice your side of the conversation. This can include what you want to say depending on the response you receive. As with preparation for a presentation, knowing your talking points will help. I usually am not a fan of spending time on a "hypothetical conversation," but with difficult conversations, preparation can help. Plus, what occurs in most situations is that even though the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is not as bad as you anticipated.

Another idea is to work on your talking points and the conversation by practicing with someone else you trust. This can help to hone your points or how you will respond to various responses, questions, or defensiveness during the real conversation.

The point is to prepare, then take hard conversations head on. If honest, most people will tell you they really want to know where they stand and what others are thinking, whether it is with a peer, a superior or a significant other. So, don't let the important subjects that need to be discussed fester and turn into a real negative.  Have the difficult conversation timely and in a manner to allow it to be as non-adversarial and productive as possible. For instance, if you have feedback on this or any of my blog posts, whether positive or negative – read: constructive criticism – I always am open to hear it.

I hope you will take the next difficult conversation you need to have head on and figure out what works best for you to prepare and participate in these types of conversations.

As always, this post and others can be found on my blog,  BusinessLawGuy'sBlog .  


About the author: Neal Bookspan is a partner at the Phoenix, Arizona law firm of Jaburg Wilk . He assists clients with business issues, commercial litigation, workouts and bankruptcy litigation. Neal can be reached at 602.248.1000