Difficult conversations at work. They’re awkward, can be very unpleasant but, ultimately they are inevitable in almost every workplace or office. According to a study by career-coaching startup Bravely, seventy percent of employees avoid difficult conversations at the office. This can lower morale and cause a toxic work environment. If you’re not having tough conversations then you’re not growing and learning.
But how do we encourage tough conversations and handle them diplomatically? Here are 8 simple tips for dealing with awkward conversations that you can use the next time they arise at the office.
8 Tips for Dealing With Awkward Conversations
1. Don't Avoid It
Difficult conversations can become more difficult the longer you wait. You can also build up anxiety that will make the situation bigger in your mind than it really is. Make feedback a common occurrence, and get in the habit of addressing issues immediately as they arise. If you’re not having those difficult workplace conversations early on, you may have an even more challenging discussion as they keep getting pushed.
2. Understand the Awkwardness
Manage the situation by understanding the cause of your unease. Perhaps there are lots of long silences or maybe the other person has a strong opinion different than yours. Identify the reason for the awkwardness, and you will be one step closer to finding a solution.
3. Be confident and direct
The person on the other end of the conversation will likely pick up on your energy. If you approach it as an uncomfortable situation—it will be one. If you’re asking for a raise or promotion, take initiative, begin the conversation with confidence and get to your point quickly. You’re never going to get what you want unless you ask.
4. Find the humour
If a conversation has become awkward, consider doing something to lighten the mood. You can do this by telling a funny joke or story, poking fun at yourself, or finding the humor in your current situation. Keeping the mood light will help to break the ice and move the conversation forward.
5. Be empathetic
Think about what it might feel like to be on the receiving end of a difficult conversation. If you see they’re struggling with what you said, pause for a minute so they can gather their thoughts. If they start to get emotional, understand how they must be feeling and reassure them that you’re providing this feedback because of the potential you see in them.
6. Listen and paraphrase
Paraphrasing is an essential communication skill that not a lot of people practice. Most people are so intent on spitting out their point as quickly as they can, they don't leave enough time to listen to what the other person has to say. If you don't know what to say in a conversation, try simply reflecting back what you hear from the other person.
7. Stick to the facts
Before your conversation, have a clear idea of what happened. Take responsibility for your part in the situation and focus on the facts. Identify where either person went wrong and discuss the impact of this conversation on each of you, the team and the organization as a whole. Try not to let your emotions get in the way of a resolution.
8. Come up with a solution
The goal of having this conversation is to reach a resolution. If the solution isn’t clear from the beginning, work together to come up with one that you both agree on. Listen to their ideas if they have any and bring some of yours to the table as well. Once you’re in agreement, commit to the resolution and make sure there is an action plan going forward.