Tough talks can happen anywhere, whether they are planned or unexpected. At the office, perhaps at a board or tenants’ meeting. You are leading a group and you find yourself with a team member who is argumentative or pushy. If a successful meeting or the group’s productivity are at stake, you know that you need to handle the situation, but what do you do? Here are some things to think about.
Identify the outcome that you want
Think about why the conversation is important to you and others, and what result you would like to have and what is at stake. How will success impact you and others? As author Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind.” This information will provide you with the clarity needed to have a “tough talk,” even if you can’t prepare in advance.
Think about the things that could go wrong
Yes. Things can go wrong when you confront someone about bad or inappropriate behavior. They could get angry and start yelling. Walking away is also a possible reaction. You, too, could lose your cool. And, there is always the possibility of making things worse. Decide NOT to react! Take time to think, even if you have to stall for a few moments so you can stay focused and on track. If you have time to prepare, anticipate any problems that could arise and make a list. Be clear about your expectations for the conversation and manage yourself, as you are the only one that you can control.
Take a walk
If the situation is tense or the conversation escalates, change locations, maybe take a walk. That will help to ease the tension that may arise during a difficult conversation. The idea is to separate the person from the problem and provide a different venue that can offer a different perspective. Be sure that privacy is possible.
Put your ego aside
It’s best not to focus the conversation only on the negative behavior of others. Solicit and listen to constructive feedback from others. Providing this opportunity will demonstrate respect and show your intention to work toward an equitable solution. Openness and honesty should prevail.
Show objectivity and concern
Demonstrate genuine concern towards others, regardless of your frustration and disagreement. This will show your good will and good intentions. Listen in order to truly understand other perspectives and viewpoints. What do they want and why is that important to them? Provide assurance about your desire for a fair outcome or resolution. It is critical to solve the right problem so you must take measures to ensure that it is identified and understood.
Remember: Planning is the key to success. Even if you are surprised by a conflict, you can still employ the same skills. You cannot guarantee a good outcome; but you can ensure a fair and respectful process.