Leaders will inevitably have conversations they would rather avoid. Some conversations are so difficult that we put off having them until we cannot postpone the discussions any longer.
There are obvious reasons we don’t like having these tough talks. Often, we don’t like difficult conversations because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. When we think about the potential negative emotional impact of our words, we simply choose not to say anything at all. In other instances, our conflict management style leans in the direction of avoidance because we don’t like the way conflict makes us feel. Life experiences can teach us that conflict is dangerous; consequently, it feels much safer to keep our opinions to ourselves rather than confront a thorny issue directly.
Even when we are willing to have difficult conversations, we may feel unprepared to do so. How do we confront the passive aggressive staff colleague, micro-managing lay leader or oppositional board member? We know we need to say something, but where do we start the conversation?
The more we learn how to effectively navigate tough conversations, the more confident we will feel when we are called to do so. It’s crucial for us to remember that the goal is not to be “right.” When we approach a hard conversation with the aim of proving we are right, we will probably talk more and listen less, which are two ways a hard conversation takes a turn for the worse. If you need to have a potentially high-conflict conversation, check out the resources below for insights and wisdom to help you do so with grace and courage.