How to Have Tough Conversations When You Hate Conflict

Two businesspeople standing face to face

“Every time you fail to have a tough conversation you lose confidence in yourself.” Jeannette Seibly

How to Have Tough Conversations When You Hate Conflict

We hear a lot today about the importance of having tough conversations. But, for many bosses and leaders this can be difficult. They hate conflict and they fear they do not have the skills required to win … as if winning was the goal.

The key in any conflict isn’t about winning the conversation. It’s about listening and building win-win agreements. When we have tough conversations that produce win-win outcomes, we gain confidence. It’s a skill that can and should be learned through practice.

Why Is It Important to Push through the Fear of Conflict?

Today, more than ever, we need to listen and hear what our employees, customers and vendors are saying. If we don’t, we will hurt our bottom lines … and our careers.

The bonus is, having those tough conversations with the intention of win-win outcomes builds loyalty.

Why Do People Hate Conflict?

Everyone’s idea of “conflict” is subjective to them. It’s based on their own experiences, education and social influences.  It reflects their confidence (or lack of) when listening to others and handling differing POVs.

Also, many people hate being told “no!” They fear this two-letter word and give it too much meaning.

When someone disagrees, it doesn’t mean they don’t like us or that our ideas aren’t valid. It means they don’t understand or agree with our POVs. Or, they have a different agenda.

8 Tips for You to Create Win-Win Outcomes

  1. Bring Curiosity. Be curious about others’ POVs. Listen to learn. Avoid making offhand comments to deflect that you are uncomfortable.
  2. Come Down to Reality. Telling the truth now avoids needing to remember what you said in the future. Otherwise, you will lose credibility. If you fear others are unwilling to hear the truth, be a parrot and repeat yourself. If the news is difficult, start by saying, “This may be hard to hear …”
  3. Ask Open-Ended Questions. Open-ended questions begin with Who, What, When, Where, Why or How. It’s a great way to get people thinking.  Often, when you hear new ideas, you will automatically say, “No!” Be open to discussing new ideas … otherwise, you will lose the respect of others.
  4. Talk Straight. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is important. Use words and phrases that others readily understand. When you use jargon or new age terms (e.g., mindfulness, EI, etc.), misunderstandings will occur. These conflicts can be avoided by using simpler words and easy to understand explanations.  Role-play with your coach if you expect to have a tough conversation.
  5. Get Out of Your Head. Quiet the chatterbox. Instead of thinking about what you will say while others are speaking, listen! Be open to hearing what the other person is saying, verbally and non-verbally. (Over 90% of communication is non-verbal (e.g., hand gestures, posture, tone of voice, etc.)). Trust that you will respond appropriately.
  6. Address the Elephant in the Room. If your company’s culture avoids having tough conversations, be responsible upfront. Start the conversation by first stating that the person may not like what you’re about to say. For example, “I know it can be difficult to talk about this issue. Would it be OK to share the facts of this problem first and then get your feedback?”
  7. Expect a Positive Outcome. What you expect usually comes true. If you believe a project will fail, many times it will. Yet, if you expect the same project to achieve positive results, many times it will. The same is true with tough conversations.
  8. Pay Now or Pay Later. When issues occur, you need to have those tough conversations now. Failure to do so will negatively impact you, your employees and management teams. It will also limit your future career options (yes, I’m repeating myself).

Whether you think you need to have tough conversations or not, you will need to have them. To build this skill, hire a coach to guide you through how-to-have tough conversations and create win-win outcomes.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2018

Jeannette Seibly has been recognized as a catalyst and leadership expert for the past 26 years. As an executive coach, speaker and author, she provides straight talk with dynamic results. What’s in the way of you and your team members having tough conversations? Learn how to overcome the fear of conflict to help you and your teams win. Don’t wait, because you will end up paying later. Contact Jeannette now for a preliminary confidential conversation.

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