For that matter, any uncomfortable conversation can be hard. Whether you are ending a relationship, asking an aging parent about end-of-life decisions, or inquiring about the possibility of a pay raise, many conversations we have in business or in daily life are stressful. It is natural to want to avoid them.
Mel Robbins is a renowned motivational and keynote speaker, talk show host, creator of The 5 Second Rule, and a best-selling author. (And I have met her!) She says that 67 percent of managers are uncomfortable talking to the people they manage.
Robbins says the most important thing to do is to separate emotion from the matter that needs to be discussed. There are four techniques she uses to stay focused on what she needs to talk about:
- Acknowledge responsibility. Acknowledging your responsibility in the matter diffuses the other person’s emotion. It actually honors them and puts them more at ease, and more able to listen.
- Define outcome. The conversation you’ve been avoiding might become a rollercoaster of emotion. Knowing your intended outcome will stabilize your thoughts.
- Listen and validate. Hear where the other person is coming from and validate their feelings. Rather than argue, acknowledge their perspective and they will be less defensive.
- Restate the outcome. Keep coming back to the outcome you want to cause.
She adds that as a bonus, you can rehearse with an uninvolved friend.
I once worked for a CEO who said, “Bad news does not get better with age.” So even when it feels uncomfortable, sometimes it’s better to just rip the Band-Aid off, and have that difficult conversation.
Michelle W. Jones, CAE, CMP, is IPMI’s director of meetings and membership.