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How to Handle Tough Conversations at Work

“Difficult conversations — whether you’re telling a client the project is delayed or presiding over an unenthusiastic performance review — are an inevitable part of management,” the Harvard Business Review notes.

HR-corner1“How should you prepare for this kind of discussion? How do you find the right words in the moment? And, how can you manage the exchange so that it goes as smoothly as possible?”

What to Do:

  • Take regular breaks during the day; the more calm and centered you are, the better you are at handling tough conversations when they arise
  • Slow down the pace of the conversation — it helps you find the right words and it signals to your counterpart that you’re listening
  • Find ways to be constructive by suggesting other solutions or alternatives

What Not to Do:

  • Label the news you need to deliver as a “difficult conversation” in your mind; instead frame the discussion in a positive or neutral light
  • Bother writing a script for how you want the discussion to go; jot down notes if it helps, but be open and flexible
  • Ignore the other person’s point of view — ask your counterpart how he sees the problem and then look for overlaps between your perspectives