Most of us do not enjoy having difficult conversations especially in the workplace. High stakes, high emotions, and differing opinions make for a challenging trio. These conversations can be anywhere from uncomfortable to contentious to litigious. Yet, we all know that moment when we know we have no other choice but to enter into a critical and difficult conversation.
Knowing that it can cause such discomfort, why do we do it? Other than perhaps changed behavior, is there an upside? Fortunately, there are actually several upsides:
Handling a difficult conversation improves understanding, breaks down barriers, and helps two parties engage in honest and hopefully productive conversation and results. In the best case, these conversations bring about enhanced understanding and a mutually agreeable way forward, paving the way for an even more positive and open relationship.
Prevents future occurrences:
As the old adage goes, bad news does not get better with age. Putting off that hard conversation may not only result in repeated occurrences of misunderstanding or undesirable behavior, but it may result in a more severe conversation as the behavior perpetuates. Those emotions, resentments, and opinions gather steam and are counterproductive. Have the conversation earlier to prevent future occurrences. The other person may not even know they are doing anything of concern to you!
Personal and Professional Growth:
Speaking from personal experience, every time I’ve held a difficult conversation – even if it is messy and clumsy – I always learn something about myself. I am able to identify what went well and what could have been enhanced. I recognize that I was able to go into a hard situation, even if uncomfortable, to respectfully articulate my position and boundaries . And each time it gets a little easier, demonstrating personal and professional growth for me.
Difficult conversations are not easy, nor comfortable. No one likes them. But understanding that timely, respectful, and honest difficult conversations can lead to positive outcomes and growth can help alleviate the challenge of having them.