Having A Difficult Conversation Can Be Less Stressful

You are certain of deserving a promotion or have a critical meeting with a client who is rigid to reduce the time given for the project delivery. Your emotions run high, there is an adrenaline rush in your brain, and you roll up your sleeves to take the dragon by the collar; but just before you enter the meeting area you feel butterflies in your stomach. These situations arise almost uninvited and often lead you to improvise. Without any time given for rehearsal, you say things which only complicate the matter. When you step out of the room you realise you skipped few things which you should not have and were important during the discussion. Any such discussion or conversation which is driven by strong emotions, is subjective in nature (having conflicting opinions), and can have a huge impact on your surroundings and lives are often the crucial or difficult conversations.

Few of us, who are able to influence others and get the desired outcomes, are the most productive people climbing the corporate ladder, rather quickly. But, for the remaining, it’s like walking on the double edged sword. Either they opt to remain silent and avoid these conversation, or participate in them without proper preparation and fail miserably: often leading to guilt and depression. This is followed by protection phase where one tends to keep away: fearing a conflict or an argument, or to save himself from any embarrassment. While on the inside, the person is fuming with anger and coping up with mixed emotions.

What should you do now?

First step, in such a scenario, is to identify the various emotions (like hurt, anger, happy, confused, or others) intertwining in your brain. Then, list down the ones which really matter (affect you) or are on the top and wipe out other unnecessary feelings. Now, map the situations, events, or needs to the emotions (which caused them in the first place). Like, the client was so rigid (situation) which made me irritated and angry (emotions). By now, you would have freed your mind (which was hijacked by emotions) to be calm and think more clearly. The last step, is to de-link the emotions and deal with the situations in an informed way.

It might take some practice, but command your mind to get rid of the harmful emotions as you have lived with them for far too long; and shift your focus on the situation at hand. Moreover, always think about what you’re going to say and don’t fall in the trap of analysing what the other person will say (that’s just speculating/presuming). Doing this will adrift you from your objective.

What are you waiting for?

Once your brain is free from any clutter and your logics are back all you have to do is make that conversation or dialogue you have been waiting for. Be wary, it should not turn to a monologue or an argument.

Ever heard of a software life-cycle or a waterfall model?

It has basic stages like Planning, Designing, Implementing, and Verifying. Likewise, every conversation has these stages and are equally important. Planning or Preparing, you should be aware of the agenda/purpose, information or details required for the meeting. List down all the things (relevant to the purpose) that you want to discuss.

Then, Designing or Framing, where you logically set the context, the language you would use, and the sequence in which you would present the data points.

Following this is, Implementing or Sharing, where you have a healthy conversation with the other person. The most crucial stage, where one should remember it’s an open platform for both parties to speak; so both should be able to share their thoughts, and their feelings. While one speaks, it’s imperative for other to listen and be respectful and vice versa. A conversation can turn counterproductive when either of the participants resorts to storytelling and citing undesirable events. A short, crisp, and to the point statement will have more impact.

The last stage is, Verifying or Committing, where you ensure the original agenda has been satisfied, and there is a take away in the form of set expectations and actionable items; which can be and should be followed up by both sides.

“My father taught me that you can you read a hundred books on wisdom and write a hundred books on wisdom, but unless you apply what you learned then its only words on a page. Life is not lived with intentions, but action.” ~ Shannon L. Alder


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