Once you’ve resolved to directly address the conflict, it’s tempting to have the conversation immediately. But taking time to prepare will help you remain calm and increase the chances that you and your counterpart will come away with a better solution than either of you could have predicted.
Below are several guidelines to help you prepare for a productive discussion.
Check Your Mindset
If you’re getting yourself ready for a conversation that you’ve labeled “difficult,” you’re more likely to feel nervous, stressed, angry, or upset. To minimize those negative emotions, try to think about it as a non-charged conversation, suggests Jean-François Manzoni. For example, instead of giving negative feedback, you’re having a constructive conversation about development. Or you’re not saying “no” to your boss; you’re offering up an alternative solution.
“A difficult conversation tends to go best when you think about it as just a normal conversation,” says Holly
Weeks, a communications expert. This isn’t sugarcoating. Be honest with yourself about how hard the conversation might be, but also put as constructive a frame on it as possible. You might tell yourself: We may have to talk about difficult things, but we’ll work through them together because Carol and I have always respected each other.
And focus on what you stand to gain from the conversation. “Assume you have something to learn; assume there is a more creative solution than you’ve thought of,” says Jeff Weiss, author of the HBR Guide to Negotiating.
By entering the discussion with an open mind, regardless of your coworker’s stance, you’re more likely to find common ground.
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