by Nancy McCormack MSN,RN, NC-BC on July 25th 2022
Why is it that we often avoid difficult conversations? Is it because it makes us uncomfortable? Or are we afraid of the other person’s , or even our own , reaction? Knowing how to have that conversation is key to effective communication.
Here are a few steps to prepare;
Identify and reflect- Initially we want to discover what makes this conversation so difficult? Is this a difference in opinion? Are we personally motivated by the topic? Reflect on your own belief system. Take a personal inventory of the true situation without bias from emotion, personal values or beliefs.
Set the tone; Going into a conversation we don’t often recognize our own tone and body language. Our tone of voice can frequently set the unintentional stage for pending conflict. Remember emails and text messages are mono-tone and are left to the interpretation of the reader. Re-read your message prior to sending if personal contact is not an option. Avoid using “ you need to”, “ we need to” “ I have decided” , “ you should have”, as these can be presumed defensive statements by nature. Be clear as to why you want to have a follow up conversation using terms such as; “ I’d like to clarify” “ can we meet for clarification”.
Creating the space and environment; Choosing a location is almost as important as choosing your words. Look for a location suitable for a conversation with enough privacy so it allows the conversation to be free. Consider noise level, time of day, and atmosphere. Will it put you both at ease to speak your mind?
How to approach the topic; During the initial encounter, don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve. Remember to smile, nod , hand shake ; let your company know you appreciate them meeting with you. A gesture of acknowledgement. Try to keep an open mind as this could be just a simple misunderstanding.
The meat and potatoes; Very few people can argue with someone who is being sincere. So be genuine. Statements like “ I felt” , “ I feel” , “ I’m concerned” let your listener know you have a stake in the matter. Listen to understand, not respond. Active listening helps you better understand the point of view of another, it shows respect and allows you to have an open mind. Make suggestions not demands. Be empathic when needed and remember, you may not know the underlying reason a person may say something. Avoid blame , ask questions and stay on track.
Find resolution; We must always remember, it’s ok to agree to disagree. We all come from different perspectives and our perception often dictates our reality. Find a way to mutually resolve the concern, even if it is just acknowledging the purpose of the meeting. Most importantly, don’t harbor any resentment or ill feelings. They negatively impact our health and can greatly affect our peace of mind. Come to terms with the resolution, whatever it may be and carry on.