Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management & Tough Conversations (Part II)

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

One main reason we are hesitant to have tough conversations is that we may not trust our OWN emotions.  Once the conversation has been set up, it is difficult to not get defensive ourselves when the other person is sharing their perspective.  As we discussed last week, don’t get trapped by this.  It is easy to get stuck in the moment, focusing on the words, tone and emotion of the other person.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The end goal is the reason to push yourself through this tough spot in a difficult conversation.  When we approach a tough conversation with the intent to resolve the situation AND improve the relationship, we have in our mind that there is hope.  Hope that if we set the conversation up properly and stick with the “high ground”, there is hope that at the end we can have a resolution that will put the situation and relationship back on track.  In fact, a tough conversation can sometimes be the defining moment that makes a relationship stronger.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share your perspective.  You have openly listened to the other’s perspective, now it is time to share yours.  Describe your discomfort, and your reasons and thought process of why and how you have gotten here.  Be clear and direct in your communication…no “code” or joking to mask your discomfort.  If an apology is needed, offer it genuinely.
  2. Keep moving the conversation forward.  Once both persons have shared their perspectives, there still may be disagreement.  Someone is going to have to keep the conversation moving forward, and guess what leader…that person is you!  At this point in the conversation, try to get back to establishing common ground.  Some phrases to consider are “Thank you for coming to me directly about this.  I think I understand your view and I believe you understand mine. I am committed to working through this situation in a way that we can both achieve what we hope for.”  Explain your ideas and ask for the other person’s.
  3. Follow-up after and often.  Rarely is a situation and relationship perfectly resolved and repaired after a tough conversation.  One thing you can do to try to make sure each person understands the common agreements made during the tough conversation is to send a note that captures the discussion from your perspective and ask to make sure the other person agrees to the content of the conversation and the next steps.  Then, most importantly, follow-through with what you committed to do and check in with the person often on the resolution.  This is not an appropriate time for a “no news is good news” philosophy.  You are half of what it takes to keep a relationship working, so be proactive and reach out.

What strategies have been most successful for you when following up after a tough conversation?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

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