Secrets to Conducting Difficult Conversations

Have you ever had to have a difficult conversation with a team member or perhaps a colleague? For me difficult conversations, or the thought of them, can cause me more than one disturbed night’s sleep. However, the truth is difficult conversations are a part of life. It is easy to forget that having difficult conversations are also essential for maintaining healthy relationships, resolving conflict, and achieving your goals.

How many of you have found that putting off having them has meant they are easier to do? Unfortunately, the opposite is true – they tend to become gigantic in our minds. And yet tackling them as soon as possible is the best way of tackling them. When we don’t address our concerns head-on, they can fester and grow, leading to resentment, anger, and sometimes sabotage.

“Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult to engage in.” Jeanne Phillips

Difficult conversations are often important ones. To have a difficult conversation respectfully and helpfully means you need a plan.

The H.E.A.R. Acronym

One helpful tool is the H.E.A.R. acronym, which stands for:

Hear: Listen actively and attentively to the other person’s point of view.

Express: Share your own point of view clearly and honestly.

Agree: Find areas of agreement, even if they’re small.

Resolve: Work together to find a solution that meets the needs of both people.

The H.E.A.R. acronym can be a helpful guide for any difficult conversation. It can help you to stay focused on the goal of communication, even when things get heated. Keep in mind that the goal of communication is understanding. It is misunderstanding that we trip over.

Hacks to Better Communication During Difficult Conversations

Listen actively and attentively. Maintain eye contact, nod your head, or make other encouraging noises. Paraphrase what the other person is saying to show that you’re listening. It also means avoiding distractions like your phone or computer. Ask questions for understanding.

Share your own point of view clearly and honestly. This doesn’t mean attacking or blaming the other person. It simply means stating your own needs and feelings respectfully. Use “I” statements not “you” statements.

Find areas of agreement, even if they’re small. This can help build trust and rapport, making it easier to resolve the situation amicably.

Work together to find a solution that meets the needs of both people. This doesn’t mean giving in or giving up. It simply means being willing to compromise and find a solution for everyone.

Having difficult conversations done with a plan and prepared for can be the opportunity for greater understanding and more effective relationships. Remember:

Conflict is a natural part of life but often carries negative connotations. A better word to use may be challenge. Think about the consequences of not challenging, particularly if team morale is at stake. Conflict can be a positive force for change. When resolving conflict we learn, grow, and strengthen our relationships.

When communicating effectively, we can share our thoughts and feelings clearly, concisely, and respectfully. This can help us build trust and rapport with others, and it can make it easier to resolve conflict.

Strong relationships are essential for our happiness and well-being. When we develop strong relationships we feel supported, loved, and valued. We are also more likely to be successful in our personal and professional lives.

Communicating effectively, resolving conflict, and building relationships leads us to be more productive. This is because we can work together more effectively and are more likely to be motivated and engaged.

Use the H.E.A.R. Acronym with Your Team

Set clear expectations. Make sure that everyone on your team understands the importance of communication, conflict resolution, and relationship building.

Create a safe space for dialogue. Encourage your team members to share their thoughts and feelings openly and honestly.

Model the behaviour you want to see. Be a role model for effective communication, conflict resolution, and relationship building.

Provide feedback and support. Help your team members to develop their communication, conflict resolution, and relationship-building skills.

The leader who sets about having difficult conversations with a clear goal of understanding and building a better relationship will be one with a plan acting with intention. Situations rarely improve by ignoring them.

Let me know tips you have for having difficult conversations – contact me

Picture of Mark Billage

Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

Scroll to Top