14 Ways to Approach Conflict and Difficult Conversations at Work

July 26, 2017

 

14 Ways To Approach Conflict And Difficult Conversations At Work


Having uncomfortable conversations at work is never easy, whether it’s with subordinates or co-workers. This is especially true for people who are afraid of conflict and would do anything possible to avoid it.

However, avoiding difficult conversations can actually lead to dysfunction and lack of performance, which can ultimately have a negative impact on a team and the business as a whole. It is estimated that workplace conflict affects not only morale and productivity, but also turnover. A major study found that employees spend an average 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict, which amounts to roughly $359 billion in workforce costs.

Instead of avoiding difficult conversations, find the courage to start confronting people in a constructive way, with skill and empathy.  Fourteen coaching experts with Forbes Coaches Council offer valuable advice on how to overcome fear of conflict and successfully approach uncomfortable conversations.

1. Step Into Their Shoes
Step into the other person's shoes to see where they come from. What factors could be driving them to act/say/do things the way they are doing? Why would you consider your stance to be the right one if you were them? What is the other person looking to get out of the situation? Knowing these viewpoints will help you create a win-win situation and deliver the message in a calm manner. - Gia Ganesh, Gia Ganesh Coaching

2. Focus On Creating Value
Confrontation suggests meeting someone face-to-face with hostile intent. Examine what your true intent to having this meeting is. If your intent is potentially hurtful to the other person, how can you look at this conversation differently? Ask yourself, how can this conversation create value for me, for the other person, and for the organization? - Lianne Lyne, PLP Coaching, LLC

3. Stick To The Facts
First, get clear on your intention/desired outcome. Next, write out what happened and be sure to keep it factual. Next, identify and take responsibility for your part in the situation. It will help avoid repeating an unwanted pattern. With respect to approach, put yourself in the other person's shoes and think about how you'd want someone to approach you. What would they say and how would they say it? - Gina Gomez, Gina Gomez, Business & Life Coach

4. Be Objective And Compassionate
Before you have the meeting, sit up straight, think of something positive, and take a deep breath. You'll get through it. Keep the conversation focused objectively, and share both insights and opportunities to improve. You may want to start by saying, "I need to tell you something that might be difficult to hear." Be compassionate to yourself and the person who is receiving your feedback. - Karen Pery, Karen Pery Coaching + Consulting
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5. Understand Why This Is Important To You
If you need to have a conversation that is difficult for you, start with asking yourself why you really need to have the conversation. Is it more difficult having the conversation or keeping the status quo? You have the status quo now, so why bother? When you can answer that question for yourself, you may find the conversation is not as difficult as you fear. - Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC

6. Show You Care
Wanting the best for the other person is a good place to start. One of our basic needs is to be seen and cared for. Show interest in their feedback first, around the topic by asking, "What are you doing well?" "What are you not doing well?" "What do you need to work on?" "What do you need to change?" Then give your feedback with the same questions. It's a two-way conversation and not a personal attack. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC

7. Be Confident But Open To Change
Before reaching out to the person who needs confronting, make sure you are not the one in the wrong. If you go into a conversation expecting an issue, that's what you're going to get. Have good intentions in your confrontation. Seek mediation if necessary. Remember that your reputation will precede you, so communicate clearly and professionally. - Maleeka T. Hollaway, The Official Maleeka Group, LLC.

8. Make It Behavioral
Confront behavior, not your assessment of their behavior. Confronting using inferences like "irresponsible," or "not a team player," causes defensiveness and makes success less likely. Ask, "What is the evidence for my inference?" and confront on that behavior. Use, "When you do X, it causes me to think you are Y." Plan before and maybe even practice so you keep your composure. - Bill Gardner, Noetic Outcomes Consulting, LLC

9. Prepare And Role Play
Most people hate to role play, yet it is an effective way to prepare for and practice tough conversations. Write down what you want to say and be clear on the goal of the conversation: What do you want someone to leave with as an "a-ha" or action item? Then, role play with a trusted peer. He/she can give you feedback on what you say and how you say it. This helps build skills for future discussions. - Leila Bulling Towne, The Bulling Towne Group, LLC

10. Use 'I' Statements
Starting your sentences with "I" avoids putdowns, judgment and blame, which are key to keeping your composure. First, describe their behavior by using, "When I hear you say..." Then explain the feelings or thoughts it creates: "I feel/think ..." Then note the effect their behavior has: "It impacts..." I-statements promote a willingness to find a solution and seek constructive change without conflict. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

11. Communicate With GRIT (Generosity, Respect, Integrity And Truth)
No one likes to be confronted. Most appreciate being helped. When engaging in a conversation to help, our intent will come from a better place. We won't feel like we're confronting the person, and our composure aligns more naturally. I find it helpful to have an opening statement that portrays my intent. And then commit to being fully present and helpful throughout the dialogue. - Laurie Sudbrink, Unlimited Coaching Solutions

12. Don't Take It Personally
I'm a people pleaser at heart -- I hate to upset someone! But I've learned over the years that if I approach conversations from this place, then I won't have the conversation at all. Instead, I aim to find the "truth" of the matter and to have the conversation from that place instead. How the other person responds is up to them; all I can do is be honest and real while looking for a solution. - Tina Forsyth, Tina Forsyth

13. Use The Bad News Sandwich
A difficult conversation is often better received when delivered using a "bad news sandwich," where the "buns" of the sandwich include positive words of praise, and the "meat" in the middle deals with the heart of the matter. This method allows you to share good news along with hard-to-share news — ideal for those of us who dread conflict. - Virginia Franco, Virginia Franco Resumes

14. Get Curious, Make Agreements
Approach the conversation with curiosity rather than judgment. Try to understand what explicit/implicit expectations are in place. Listen to the intentions beneath the emotions and words being exchanged. Try to respond to the deeper intentions in play and in accordance with your shared purpose. Shift toward making agreements instead of expectations for greater clarity and intention moving forward. - Tonyalynne Wildhaber, Coaching & Consulting by Tonyalynne

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/07/17/14-ways-to-approach-conflict-and-difficult-conversations-at-work/#76837a9e3cfd

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