Anxiety, dread, helplessness, guilt… these are probably some emotions we’ve all experienced at one point or another when having difficult conversations with others.

According to a VitalSmarts poll, it was found that 80% of employees are “cowering from at least one scary conversation at work” that they know they need to have but are “dreading.” Many of us avoid these conversations at all costs. However, when they’re done with confidence, it can help to build trust and team engagement.

So how can we step into a challenging conversation more confidently? Furthermore, how can we make these “scary conversations” more enjoyable and meaningful?

Focusing on connecting with others and and the greater purpose of the conversation can help.

Having Difficult Conversations

At the workplace, difficult conversations can come in different forms — giving or receiving feedback, delivering bad news, resolving team conflicts, etc.

There are many existing resources to help us prepare for these conversations. However, a lot of these resources are outcomes-based and doesn’t address what’s really important to the conversation.

As examples, some of the basic communication strategies that we may or may not have already heard of include:

  • Choosing the right place and time
  • Being clear on the purpose of your conversation
  • Giving timely feedback
  • Being tactful
  • Meeting face-to-face

etc. etc…

Surely, these strategies are important but they don’t really help us connect with the value of the conversation. Moreover, they don’t always help to build more trust with others.

Building Trusting

When preparing for difficult conversations, focusing on connecting with others and also the greater purpose of the conversation can help you feel more confident about the conversation, especially if you are someone who naturally have a lot of concern for others!

Below is a simple list of questions to help you prepare some talking points that’ll help you connect better with others, while communicating your own needs. Try practicing your talking points out loud with a friend when preparing for the conversation.

  • Check in on your intentions.

    • Why are you having this conversation?
    • How does this conversation benefit the other person?
    • How does this conversation benefit the team?
  • Connect the situation back to your values.

    • Why is having this conversation important to you?
    • How does having this conversation help you live out your values? Incorporating this into your conversation can help the other person understand the bigger picture. Furthermore, it will help set the tone for the type of relationship you’d like to cultivate with them.
      • For example: “I would like to clear a misunderstanding with you because I really value building a genuine connection with everyone on my team.”
  • Prioritize hearing the other person’s perspective

    • For example, saying “I would love to understand your perspective on the situation so we can be on the same page.” can help you see how the other person perceived the situation.
  • Practice active listening

    • Be genuinely curious about the other person’s perspective, ask open-ended questions to gather information and make an effort to clarify points that seem unclear to you. (Here is a post on more details on “Becoming a Great Listener – Leading with Empathy.”)
  • End the conversation with a commitment to always be open to giving and receiving feedback.

    • This will help to build a culture of open communication. Over time and with practice, these conversations will become the team’s way of being!

Difficult Conversations Become Easier Through Practice

Having confrontations is probably not the easiest thing to do for many of us but when done confidently, it can help to build trust and team engagement.

The more practice you have, the more confident you will feel when you step into a difficult conversation. Once having open and honest conversations becomes a part of the culture of the team, the less anxiousness, guilty and dread you will feel!

What is one thing you can start doing to build more trust on your team?