For Managers: The Proper Way of Handling Challenging or Difficult Conversations

It’s not easy to handle difficult situations, or incidents in which there might be conflict and confrontation. It’s therefore human nature to avoid those situations – although in the long-term that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. It’s much better to grab the bull by the horns and wrestle the animal to the ground rather than try and avoid it altogether; although, of course, it needs to be done the proper way.

For managers, this is particularly difficult. You may not like a person’s performance yet postpone the necessary conversation. You may not enjoy pointing out mistakes, or feel hypocritical spelling out a lesson. It is, however, the mark of a true manager to do it as soon as possible, and to do it well. This one’s for managers: the proper way of handling challenging or difficult conversations.

The unplanned conversation

This is the most difficult one, since you’re not able to prepare for it. If you feel you are out of your league, the best way to handle it is to get the general idea (question and listen actively) and allow yourself time to investigate further by postponing the meeting to some later date.

The planned conversation

It’s not an easy one to have either, but at least you’re able to follow certain guidelines – and that may turn out to be critical for a positive result. There is no way to predict the outcome of the situation, but with the following guidelines your chances of success will surely increase.

General guidelines

Here are the general guidelines for handling those difficult conversations – whether they are planned or not. They are:

  • Gather information – You can’t solve a problem until you understand it and understand where it’s coming from. Do some background research. Make sure you get your facts straight.
  • Be assertive – unless there is a very good reason to do so, do not get caught backing down from your position.
  • Be understanding – put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It’s essential to get your message across in the right way.
  • Negotiate if possible – and if you do, aim for a win-win situation.
  • Listen – this is an active skill; it takes time and practice. If you want, you can even record the conversation so there is something to reference if necessary – and then have it transcribed by professional transcription services. Transcription services can be invaluable in this regard.
  • Stay calm
  • Watch your language – this includes your body language.

Of course, it’s all easier said than done – however, when you keep these points in mind, the chances of you and your partner in conversation arriving at a positive conclusion increases dramatically. The truth is it’s not that hard; it just requires a little bit of practice and the willingness to stick with a systematic approach.