Don’t Look Now, there is an Elephant in the Room

4 Simple Steps to Make Difficult Conversations Easier

Why do we avoid difficult business conversations? It’s a common problem I see with companies I work with no matter what business problem they are trying to solve.

The growth strategy seems to be failing because the leadership team isn’t aligned on the process or business outcomes. The capture team can’t agree on how to respond to the long-awaited megaproject RFP. Or they may be implementing new software and can’t get the users groups on the same page.

No matter what the business issues are, the obstacle is always the same. There is a giant elephant in the room that everyone keeps feeding.

We often avoid difficult conversations because we fear the outcome. We are afraid of how the other person might respond and/or are uncertain what we should say or do. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.

The longer we avoid the conversations, the bigger the issues become until they take on a life of their own. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you can learn to tolerate a little discomfort, the rewards are worth it.

Here are four simple steps you can take right now to make your next difficult conversation a lot easier.

  1. Become a better listener – seek to understand your conversational partner. This means leaving your preconceived ideas and notions in the trunk of your car and simply listening with an open mind. Seek to understand by clarifying what the other party says and asking open-ended questions.
  2. Be a thoughtful speaker – seek to be understood by carefully choosing words that convey the intended business outcome and are not hostile or accusatory. A verbal ambush rarely results in improved teamwork and collaboration.
  3. Stick to the facts – assumptions about what another person might be thinking or feeling are not facts. Find your common ground by getting the facts on the table and agreeing on what is true. Next identify those areas that are in dispute. What additional information is required before the parties can find common ground?
  4. Agree on next steps – always end the discussion with mutually agreeable next steps. Be specific and set a date for follow-up and any required deliverables.

Becoming a skilled communicator takes practice and patience. As you build your skills, your workplace conversations will become more effective and productive. If you are looking to make your workplace elephants extinct, commit to creating an environment where the truth is spoken and heard.

What’s on your mind? Schedule a complimentary call and let’s talk about your business.

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