ActionCOACH Southern Indiana

Navigating the Awkward: Tips for Difficult Conversations

Last week at our GrowthCLUB event, Coach Sandy Merritt gave a presentation about something that’s been a big point of discussion in her management training classes…navigating crucial conversations.

Very few of us enjoy having difficult conversations with our team members, but it’s a necessary evil when you’re a business leader. 

During her presentation, the group was able to bring up specific examples of their past conversations or future conversations that they need to have, and it was great being able to talk through some of the challenges.

Here are some key takeaways from her presentation: 

1. Finding the Balance

Crucial conversations require a delicate balance between being assertive about what needs to happen and cooperative in finding solutions. If you’re not assertive and direct enough, nothing changes. If you’re too assertive, the person shuts down. It’s not about winning an argument, but about reaching a mutually beneficial outcome.

2. Respectful Communication

Always approach conversations with respect and empathy for the other person’s viewpoint. This doesn’t mean you have to agree, but acknowledging their perspective helps build trust and fosters a more open dialogue.

3. Action-Oriented Questions

Instead of asking questions that lead to the person making excuses or blaming someone else, ask questions that lead to action. For example, change “Why isn’t this done yet?” to “Where are you on this project?” 

4. Active Listening

Truly listen to understand, not just to respond. Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Reflect back what you’ve heard to ensure clarity and demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation.

5. Rehearse

Do it in front of a mirror to check your body language, or in front of a trusted advisor or peer. Even the most seasoned managers can benefit from practice and preparation.

These are just a few of the highlights from her talk, and the conversation it generated within the group from their real-world experiences was invaluable.

If you could benefit from discussions around topics like this, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Author: Mark McNulty, Business Coach