Make your conversations count

Listen to me

Ever struggle to find just the right words when you’re in a sensitive conversation? If you’re in a leadership role or own your own business where you interact with the public, it’s not uncommon. Some leaders have admitted they will avoid an employee because of having to tiptoe around an issue or worrying about striking a nerve. The idea of confronting the person becomes more stressful than dealing with the negative impact of ignoring it.

As a business owner, you just want to get things done, but “people issues” often can get in the way. While the words you choose to use are important, there are other factors that matter as well. Here are some quick tips to help you address difficult people and situations as they arise.

Focus on…

Your intention: What do you want to happen as a result of the conversation you know you need to have? Be clear about the purpose or expectation you have for the conversation.

For example, your intention may be to encourage some type of change or to help someone improve performance. Maybe you’re trying to smooth relationships.

Your tone: What do you want the person to feel as a result of the conversation? Encouragement? Trust? Willingness to improve? Keep your tone light when you can. If you are stressed and serious, other people will sense that. Have a positive expectation for the conversation.

Your questions: Hear the difference between…”WHAT were you thinking?” and “What do you think you can do differently next time?” Use good questions to help bring out the best in others, not to shut them down.

Your timing: Timing is everything. If you are reacting to a person or situation that makes you angry, wait. Allow the dust in your mind to settle.

The situation often is not as bad as it first appears. Even if you’re ready to have the conversation, the timing may be off for the other person. Read the other person. Open a difficult conversation when people are more likely to be receptive. More people and companies are recognizing the value of coaching conversations to address difficult issues. They realize that the role of the leader is not always to solve problems, but to be a good coach or mentor–to build capability in others.

Whether you are trying improve a difficult situation or develop a top performer, be sure to make your conversation count.

GayleLantz_headshotAuthor: Gayle Lantz is a leadership consultant, author, speaker and founder of WorkMatters, Inc., ( a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders think and work smarter.


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