Difficult conversations can be tough, uncomfortable, and draining and, consequently, some managers avoid them, delay them, or don’t handle them well. In this article, I want to give you some tips on how to be more resilient when involved in having a difficult conversation. My hope is that with some of these skills you will be more prepared and be able to bounce back after a difficult conversation.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back and adapt when you are faced with challenging situations, personally and professionally. So how can we bounce back from a Difficult Conversation and better deal with stress often associated with them?
- Learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable
Feeling uncomfortable is a normal part of difficult conversations. No one likes pulling someone up, giving negative feedback or criticising others, yet it is an essential part of management and leadership. If we don’t pull someone up, then we may allow a dangerous or unacceptable situation to occur. The reality is we need to accept that these uncomfortable feelings will rise up and we need to accept them and learn to be comfortable.
- Notice what you say to yourself in an unfamiliar situation
Dr. Susan Jeffers talks about the power of affirmations also known as positive self-talk. So, as you prepare for and go into a difficult conversation how have you prepared your mindset? Have you replaced any self-doubt or negative self-talk with positive self-talk? You might say “It is better for me to have this difficult conversation now, rather than let it escalate and become a conflict.”
- Seek out a coach or mentor
Handling difficult conversations is a skill. People attend workshops and courses and get trained in handling difficult conversations. These courses give you the opportunity to reflect and to work through different scenarios in a safe learning environment.
- Getting comfortable with saying no
Some people find saying no difficult. They feel that saying no is letting others down. Saying no is simply a way of knowing your boundaries and letting people know when something is outside your boundary. Not saying no leads to overwork, burnout and focusing on things that you shouldn’t. Saying no is going to come up in difficult conversations and to be more resilient, we need to be comfortable when we need to say no.
- When facing a challenge, be prepared for the worst-case scenario and have a back-up plan
One of the key components to a difficult conversation, and in the model that I teach, is preparation. And if you prepare for a worst-case scenario and the other person resisting the difficult conversation or rejecting the feedback, then you will be more resilient and better able to cope with this event. What is your plan B or your alternative if the difficult conversation does go bad? Preparing for these eventualities will prevent you from being surprised and will help you be more resilient.
- Keep an open mind in approaching new and difficult situations
Aside from being prepared for worse case scenarios, you also need to be prepared to have an open mind. Harvard University stresses the importance of curiosity and understanding the other person’s point of view. If you do keep an open mind and understand that there are always two sides, you will better deal with difficult situations and difficult conversations.
Difficult conversations can be tough. Yet they are a normal part of effective leadership and managing teams. If you can learn to be more resilient, you will be better equipped to undertake those difficult conversations that we all need to have from time to time.
Learn more about being resilient when dealing with difficult conversations in the Real Leadership for Women Masterclass Program in Perth on 22-23 in November.