Having difficult conversations at work is uncomfortable for pretty much everyone. However, working through disagreements and sensitive topics constructively presents opportunities to align expectations and strengthen relationships. How we approach tense talks says a lot about our communication style and emotional intelligence, as well as our capacity to collaborate with and lead others. So, it’s critically important to practice this skill set, no matter how uncomfortable.
Handling challenging conversations professionally starts with knowing how you currently tend to deal with these situations. If you want to understand your tendencies better, consider taking our short quiz “How Do You Perform in Difficult Conversations?” This simple assessment will categorize you into one of three common profiles according to your natural inclinations during sensitive situations. Knowing your unique style provides insight into your strengths and areas for improvement when tensions run high. Take the quiz now:
Read on to learn more about your result:
These professionals pride themselves on remaining unflappable in any conflict or criticism. True to their name, they stay composed in challenging interactions, prioritizing logic and reason over emotion. As a result, they will boldly initiate talks others avoid, adeptly highlighting issues matter-of-factly and offering solutions. However, their detached, business-like delivery often translates as insensitive or overly harsh, hindering their ability to build rapport and maintain strong relationships. To balance their directness with care, “Human Statues” should focus on listening to understand differing perspectives, asking clarifying questions, and developing sincerity and empathy when communicating.
These professionals tend to tread cautiously into any rocky exchange, carefully contemplating their words and reactions as they go. They typically handle difficulties in a mature, even-tempered way, rarely escalating disagreements or allowing their emotions to overpower reason. However, they tend to hesitate to address problems when issues first surface, potentially allowing tensions to intensify unnecessarily. And, without time to prepare, they may struggle to articulate their concerns in the heat of the moment. For “Tightrope Walkers”, it is most important to build the self-assurance to tackle issues earlier and have confidence in their own communication skills to thrive in a variety of situations.
These professionals tend to avoid difficult conversations altogether. They may feel ill-equipped to handle any potential confrontation or criticism. When forced into sensitive situations, they tend to respond defensively, take criticism personally, and endlessly overthink conversations in their minds. For “Escape Artists”, the priority is developing the skills to manage emotional reactions, listen actively and with intent, and nurture the confidence required to willingly lean into tricky talks despite apprehension. Only then can they hear concerns and feedback accurately and respond thoughtfully.
While nobody is a perfect communicator, understanding our patterns creates opportunities for self-improvement. Recognizing unhelpful tendencies allows us to intentionally apply more constructive strategies instead. With this self-awareness and focused effort, we can gracefully handle even the most emotional and uncomfortable conversations. You may even be able to recognize these tendencies in others and be able to help. The outcome? More open, understanding relationships with colleagues.
To learn more and become a master in tricky situations, check out our event, “Managing Difficult Conversations with Confidence” where you’ll learn proven skills that will enable you to address any issue – no matter how sensitive – quickly and with confidence. You’ll master new approaches that turn tough conversations into positive, productive experiences for all involved.