Business Skills 5 tactics for having difficult conversations when you don't like conflict

Address uncomfortable situations head-on by getting right to the point. Have a frank, respectful discussion where both parties speak frankly about the details of an issue

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Avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation can hurt your relationships and create other negative outcomes. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you dread discord, but you can learn to dive into these tough talks by reframing your thoughts.

1. Begin from a place of curiosity and respect, and stop worrying about being liked: While it’s natural to want to be liked, that’s not always the most important thing. Lean into the conversation with an open attitude and a genuine desire to learn. Start from a place of curiosity and respect — for both yourself and the other person. Genuine respect and vulnerability typically produce more of the same: mutual respect and shared vulnerability.

2. Focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying: You don’t actually need to talk that much during a difficult conversation. Instead, focus on listening, reflecting and observing. Gather as much detail as possible. Ask follow-up questions without blame.

3. Be direct: Address uncomfortable situations head-on by getting right to the point. Have a frank, respectful discussion where both parties speak frankly about the details of an issue. Talking with people honestly and with respect creates mutually rewarding relationships, even when conversations are difficult.

4. Don’t put it off: Instead of putting off a conversation for some ideal future time, tackle it right away. Get your cards on the table so you can resolve the issue and move on.

Conversation play

Conversation

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5.Expect a positive outcome: Focus on the long-term gains that the conversation will create for the relationship. When your attention is focused on positive outcomes and benefits, it will shift your thinking process and inner dialogue to a more constructive place.

(Adapted from “How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict” at HBR.org.)

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