How to Prep for a Difficuly Conversation at Work

How to Prep for Difficult Work Conversations


It’s common at work that people avoid confrontation. They think it’s better not to cause a disruption than voice concerns. It may be as simple as not wanting to get fired, or just the fact that it’s uncomfortable to sit next to some you have had a confrontation with. But really, avoiding conflict is a tiresome and unproductive way to work as a team. Here are a few tips to make a difficult work conversations less stressful.

Timing is Everything
The first thing you want to consider when you have something to discuss at work (or anywhere) is how you feel. If you are raging mad or sulky hurt, it’s not the right time to say anything. You don’t want to blow up at someone or cry at work. When you’re really in the mess, keep your mouth shut. You’ll be happy later.

Once you’ve cooled off, examine your feelings and attach words to them. Script out what you are going to say. It sounds a little ridiculous, but by doing this you are less likely to forget important points. It’s even a good idea to practice the conversation in the mirror. In your script, give an example of the behavior that you are responding to. Instead of saying you take up half my day talking to me about your kid, you want to reference a specific instance that they will remember too.

Choose Your Words Wisely
When you have the conversation, use neutral language. Don’t use words that are too revealing or charged. It triggers emotions in them that will put them on the defense. Further, volatile language puts you at risk to be let down if you don’t get your desired response. There’s a reason why HR departments use the language they do: the message is conveyed without connoting any strong feelings. Replacing a word like angry with ones like upset or frustrated may seem trite, but it will have a big impact on how you are received.

It’s a Two Way Street
Lastly, you need to respect the other person’s position. It’s not a conversation when you don’t give a damn about how they feel. That’s talking at someone, not with them. Remember, you have zero control over how someone is going to respond. The act of speaking up is more important than the result.

People do annoying things at work all the time. And not everything should be addressed. You’re not Larry David. Usually getting over yourself and letting it all go is the best policy. But when a problem is consistently resurfacing, when you feel yourself swallowing your words time and time again, then it’s best to have a conversation. And chances are the person isn’t even aware of what they’re doing. You can’t expect people to respect boundaries that you haven’t set.

Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.