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Marketing / Communication skills

Difficult conversations are hard. This will make them easier.

Most business owners will do anything to avoid a difficult conversation. I think it’s time to suck it up and get tough.

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Many years back a friend of mine wrote me a testimonial for a personal development program that I was participating in. He wrote, “What I admire the most about Andrew is that he has the strength of character to end a relationship where he is being taken advantage of. He can have the difficult conversations that others shy away from.”

It took me many years to realise just how significant an observation this was and how important it is for business owners, especially soloists to toughen up when it comes to having a difficult conversation. No one likes them but if you don’t get better at it, you are destined for a stressed out and frustrated existence.

How good are you at having those hard conversations? Will you let a situation continue, regardless of how much it is costing you financially and emotionally because you are afraid of confrontation?

If the answer is ‘Yes’, rest assured you are not alone. What I tended to do was wait until I was completely frustrated and then I would have a hissy fit and upset everyone, with nothing ever changing. I hated having hard conversations so denial became my go-to strategy and I would drive everyone crazy by whinging about the person or the situation.

Want more articles like this? Check out the Communication Skills section

"If you are constantly feeling stressed out and angry because other people are letting you down it’s time to do something about it. "

I got sick and tired of this method and I realised I needed to do something differently. So I developed a simple five-step approach for handling any difficult conversation.

  1. I commit to addressing an issue before I get angry and frustrated about it.
  2. I always stop and think about it from the other person’s perspective – why are they acting in a certain way and how have I contributed to this?
  3. I get very clear about what I want them to do.
  4. I let the person know I would like to have a discussion about something – so I don’t broadside them and put them on the defensive.
  5. I have the discussion, making sure I let the other person explain their position and I never, ever lose my cool.

This is a simple approach and it really works.

I’ve used it with:

  • Suppliers who are not delivering on their promise.
  • Customers who are overstepping their mark or being rude and overly demanding.
  • Staff who are not performing.
  • Landlords who have stopped honouring a lease arrangement.
  • Many other difficult situations.

I’ve also become much better at talking about money (often the most difficult of conversations to have).

What has the end result been? Well there have been many positives:

  • Firstly I feel much more confident in handling any situation.
  • If I have lost a relationship as a result of having a hard conversation I’ve come to understand that it was a relationship that had run its course and needed to come to an end.
  • And last, but by no means least, I have a lot less stress in my life because I nip issues in the bud before I get seriously stressed and frustrated.

If you struggle with having difficult conversations you really do need to toughen up. This doesn’t mean you become a monster, it means you are able to have the difficult conversations that most people tend to avoid. Master this skill and a lot will change in your life.

How do you go when it comes to  having a difficult conversation? Do you find them hard or easy?

Andrew Griffiths

has developed an international reputation as one of the leading global entrepreneurial authorities. His books and articles are considered street smart wisdom, designed to both inspire and challenge conventional thinking.

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