Allow the Other Person to Vent During a Difficult Conversation…

During a tense discussion with a colleague, it can be hard to remember that you’re not the only one who’s upset. When your counterpart expresses anger or frustration, don’t stop them. Let them vent as much as possible, and remain calm while it’s happening. Don’t interrupt the venting or interject your own commentary. While you’re doing this, you can either be completely quiet or indicate that you’re listening by using phrases such as “I get that” or “I understand.”

Avoid saying anything that assigns feeling or blame, such as “Calm down” or “What you need to understand is…” It’s important to give your counterpart this space, but that’s not to say it’s easy. If you can tolerate the venting, without judging, you’ll soon be able to guide the conversation to a more productive place.

Check Your Mindset Before a Difficult Conversation…

If you’re preparing yourself for a conversation that you’ve labeled “difficult,” you’re more likely to feel nervous, stressed, angry, or upset. 

To minimize these negative emotions, reframe how you’re thinking about the conversation: You’re not saying no to your boss; you’re offering up an alternative solution. You’re not giving someone negative feedback; you’re starting a constructive conversation about their development. This isn’t sugarcoating. Be honest with yourself about how hard the conversation might be, but frame it as constructively as possible. 

You might tell yourself: We may have to talk about difficult things, but we’ll work through them together because we’ve always respected each other. And focus on what you stand to gain from the conversation — assume you have something to learn. By entering the discussion with an open mind, regardless of your coworker’s stance, you’re more likely to find common ground.