As a business owner, a manager, or a co-worker, there are times where something needs to be said but the prospect of saying it is so uncomfortable that the situation lingers unresolved. 

The reason most people take garbage out of their house is because the longer it is in the house, the more it stinks. It works the same with a difficult conversation that does not happen in a timely manner. The need to have the conversation doesn’t going away, and the issue becomes more and more of a problem.

When the conversation finally happens, there is usually a big sense of relief, even if the outcome of the conversation is not perfect. Just no longer anticipating the conversation takes tremendous pressure off you.

What can be done to make such difficult conversations a bit easier?

Invest in the Relationship Continuously

The stronger your relationship with the person you need to talk to, the easier it is to have the conversation. However, the investment needed to create that connection and trust must be done over a period of time and must never stop.

By creating a strong sense of trust, in a deliberate and sincere manner, the person you are interacting with will be more likely to listen, even if what is being said is difficult to hear.

How to invest in a relationship?

  • Catch him/her doing something right.
  • Offer praise for a job well done.
  • Provide constructive advice on how something could be done even better.
  • Do the former two items in a timely way.
  • Spend time with the person talking about his/her life outside of work.
  • Ask the person for advice.

It is not complicated; you just have to keep it top of mind to make sure it happens.
Communicate Routinely

Often you might feel anxious about talking with a person if you don’t usually speak with him/her. One of the benefits of regular meetings with individuals and as a team or departments is you all learn how to talk with one another. It is just business to do so.

This routine of communicating tends to build strong bonds so that when something comes up that no one wants to talk about, it will be a little bit easier to have the needed conversation.

Be Clear

When there is the need to talk with someone about a specific issue, one often tends to add in a bunch of other issues, particularly when not talking to each other is the norm. Watch out for this, as it is extremely unproductive. The tendency to do this keeps marriage counselors very busy! 

Before having the conversation, lay out the main point or related points on a piece of paper. Be specific, mentioning the actual situation(s) that is disturbing you. Avoid adding extraneous or judgmental statements that would be likely to simply get the person upset. You want to be heard, not reacted to.

Listen Instead of Just Talking

You can learn a lot if you just shut up. Remember that your perspective might not be accurate. You never know. How can you find out? Listen. Invite the other person to respond. Struggle to understand. Don’t react.

Easy to say and hard to do, I know. That is no reason not to try.

Wrap It Up

Before leaving the conversation, agree on what was discussed. This may entail agreeing about what is not mutually agreed to. Figure out what step(s) will happen from this point forward. That might mean agreeing upon when you will next get together to continue the discussion.

All dialogue takes longer than a monologue. You can’t develop a good resolution by giving a monologue, by the way.

Every single time in my life that I finally had a difficult conversation I felt a weight lift off my back. My relationship with the person I talked to might not be rosy, but at least I was not beating myself up  for avoiding the conversation anymore. One measure of the strength of a relationship is the ability to talk about a matter that no one wants to talk about.

What do have to lose by avoiding the needed conversation? Your self-respect and the respect of the other person. Take the chance. Both of you are worth it.