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How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don't Like Conflict

Don’t put it off

Don't put off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with.

Take some time to cool down and plan the general outline of the outcome you desire. But then have the conversation, and make a plan to move on. 

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don't Like Conflict

How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don't Like Conflict

https://hbr.org/2017/05/how-to-have-difficult-conversations-when-you-dont-like-conflict

hbr.org

5

Key Ideas

Begin from a place of curiosity

Lean into the conversation from a place of curiosity and respect (for yourself and the other person). 

Even when the subject of the conversation is difficult, the interaction can remain mutually supportive. Respect the other person’s point of view, and expect them to respect yours.

Listen and observe

Focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying. Genuine attention and neutrality encourage people to elaborate.

You don’t actually need to talk that much during a difficult conversation. Instead, learn to listen, reflect and observe.

Be direct

Address uncomfortable situations head-on by getting right to the point.

Foster an honest and respectful discussion and make sure both parties speak about the details of an issue. 

Don’t put it off

Don't put off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with.

Take some time to cool down and plan the general outline of the outcome you desire. But then have the conversation, and make a plan to move on. 

Expect a positive outcome

Focus on the long-term gains that the conversation will create and you will shift your inner dialogue to a more constructive place. 

This will build your confidence to approach the coworker who constantly criticizes and complains or the subordinate who keeps underperforming.

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Ask at least one question before changing topic to show you’re engaged. Gathering details makes it more likely that you’ll be able to establish a connection with the other person or find a way you can lend a hand.

Prepare For A Conversation Without Being Creepy

Take a look at the person’s LinkedIn or Twitter account to get an idea of his tone, interests, etc. You’re always at an advantage when you know more about a person. It will be easier to relate to him and you might avoid awkward conversations.

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Emotions During a Difficult Conversation

It’s hard not to get worked up emotionally when you’re in a tense conversation: a disagreement can feel like a threat.

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Breathe

When you start noticing yourself getting tense, try to focus on breathing (on feeling the air coming in and out of your lungs).

This will take your attention off the physical signs of panic and keep you centered.

Focus on your body

Sitting still when you’re having a difficult conversation can make the emotions build up rather than dissipate. 

Standing up and walking around helps to activate the thinking part of your brain.

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Don’t try to fix the difficult person

Accept them exactly as they are. 

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Be present and direct

Try to avoid getting into a fight-or-flight response, which inevitably leads to becoming defensive

  • Be direct and assertive when you express yourself. 
  • Stay focused on how you respond. 
  • Know when the discussion or argument has accelerated to the point of no return. If it gets to this point, stop the interaction, and leave the conversation.
Encourage difficult people to express themselves

Let them fully state their point of view about the issue/conflict/problem without interruption. What do they feel people misunderstand about them? What do they want or expect from others? 

The idea is to remain as neutral as possible. Just listening may be enough to allow someone to feel like they have the opportunity to say what’s on their mind. 

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