Nobody likes having difficult conversations. They’re awkward, stressful, and can lead to negative consequences in the future. Whether you have a co-worker or boss you don’t get along with, or a demanding job that requires conflict resolution, how can you end a tough conversation in a way that doesn’t burn bridges?
First, you need to approach it in the right away. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Frame it in a more positive way.
If you’re getting ready to have a difficult conversation with someone, don’t think about it in those terms. This will make you feel more anxious and stressed out about it.
Instead, look at it as a way to solve a problem and achieve a resolution. If you have to call out a co-worker on a mistake they made, for instance, think of it as a way to avoid future issues down the line. It’s just another conversation, but one that is meant to yield a positive outcome.
Think about what you want to say ahead of time, but don’t script it out. When it comes to difficult conversations, it’s easy to get emotional, especially in the heat of the moment.
However, when you plan what you want to say ahead of time and know the key points you want to get across, you’re less likely to get upset and more likely to turn it into a fruitful conversation. Focus on being clear, direct and neutral during these conversations.
Listen and acknowledge the other person’s perspective.
Frustration can ensue when the other party feels they are not being acknowledged or heard. It’s why it’s important to listen and ask questions, expressing interest in the other person’s perspective. If you walk into the conversation with a hard-line attitude, it’s going to wind up turning into an argument instead of a conversation.
If, despite your best efforts, the conversation breaks down, then it’s best to end it. How can you do so without creating more upset? A few things to consider saying include:
- “Well, I think we should wrap this up now. Maybe we can revisit it tomorrow?”
- “I have to get going, but can I email you about this later this week?”
- “Thank you for your insight. I don’t think we’re going to come to a resolution now. Perhaps we can talk later.”
- “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree for now. But I understand your stance and appreciate your insight.”
When you’re diplomatic and kind, you can walk away from the conversation knowing you did your best to keep the relationship in tact. It’s possible to disagree with someone and even have a frustrating conversation and still maintain a healthy work relationship. The key is following the tips above to approach it properly, wrap it up when you’re not getting anywhere, and then revisit it later.
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