Was there ever a time when your performance at work was not up to par, and your manager had to sit down and discuss it with you? It must have made you feel nervous, vulnerable, or maybe angry and agitated. We all go through such situations as we can't be at 100% constantly. But these conversations can be difficult to navigate and listen to. And now, when you might have taken up the role of the manager or leader, is it challenging for you to handle such conversations? This blog is exactly about understanding these tough conversations at work. Speaking about a team member's low performance, saying no, resolving conflicts, conveying your disappointment or anger- these situations make conversations tough. As a manager, you must be assertive and speak about important things like performance and behavior. However, you also have to keep in mind the emotions and situations of the other person; otherwise, a direct conversation can quickly become emotionally charged. You must've experienced this at least once. You are just trying to discuss some mistakes with a team member to help them improve, but the team members feel intimidated or attacked and do not cooperate in the conversation, and it just takes a whole different turn altogether, far from its real purpose. This is one of the reasons that these conversations get so tough! Let's understand some more about what makes these talks difficult. What makes conversations difficult? When you visit a doctor with some symptoms, the doctor does not go straight to the treatments. But diagnosis comes first. Similarly, to turn tough conversations into easy ones, we need to get to the diagnosis first. You need to work on understanding why certain conversations and situations are difficult for you. In this section, I will explain some reasons that make conversations challenging for you at work. As you read along, think about which of these reasons could have been the cause of difficulties you faced while conversing at work. You must reflect on and find the reasons affecting you before working on improving them. Cultural differences With traditional work boundaries blurring, workplace diversity is becoming more and more prominent. Employees with different cultures have their significant values, traditions, communication styles, and norms, which may lead to differences and miscommunication not only between the manager and team members but also impact how the team engages with each other. Workplace conduct Certain rules and norms are essential for a conducive workplace. However, not all humans operate the same way. Some team members might not exactly uphold those. A manager then has to confront it and any other such inappropriate behavior. Now, you want to be firm and assertive and get your point across while also taking care that you don’t seem bossy or arrogant. Tricky, right? Well, it’s tough conversations we are talking about. Differences of interest and opinions Ah, the classic situation where a manager has to intervene. Difference of opinions. A team comprises varied people who need to work together to achieve their goals but might not always collaborate easily. Such a situation can become quite difficult for managers as they have to listen to everyone, analyze the situation, and make decisions that are somehow okay with everyone. Otherwise, it may look like favoritism or partiality. Here, skills in negotiation and decisive thinking become quite essential. Too many conflicts While some conflict is healthy & essential in any team, too many conflicts just call for some confrontation from the manager. Now, confrontation seems like a negative word, but just like conflicts, healthy and right confrontation is essential. And needless to say- challenging for the manager. A manager has to make sure that these get resolved while also taking care of the emotions of the team members. Empathy, active listening, and assertiveness are essential here. Personal issues Sometimes, all the difficulty there is comes internally. A manager’s issues and emotions can highly impact how they engage with others. At times, our emotions get the best of us, and in such a scenario, even the easiest of the conversation may take a different turn if you are overwhelmed. Here, it becomes essential to become aware of your emotions and take a small break to calm yourself before engaging in any talk. Being assertive vs being aggressive I mentioned personal issues and emotions affecting how you engage with your team members, and one crucial thing here is understanding the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. At times, as a manager, it can get challenging to get hold of our emotions, especially when things go wrong and a lot of mistakes happen. Or a manager trying to assert their authority with some difficult team members might turn aggressive. And to have tough conversations, a manager needs to know how to be assertive in the right way. Assertiveness requires you to keep yourself calm in all situations and convey what needs to be said clearly and firmly. While being aggressive will lead you to lose your cool and shout at team members. Another essential thing to understand the difference between them is that while being assertive, you focus on the person's behavior impacting the work. In contrast, while being aggressive, one might comment on the personality or nature of a person. Have a look at the picture below to understand more about this difference. Remember that everything is difficult until the moment you try it. This is especially true for conversations. All the apprehension makes it difficult for us. Instead, remember to prepare just enough and give it a try. You will make mistakes and realize them in retrospect. So don't be afraid of trying, and make sure that you use your mistakes as a step on the ladder to move up. Now comment down and let me know if you want some tips on how to make these difficult conversations easy. Feel free to add any other reason that makes conversations difficult for you, and we’ll add that to our list of tips and examples!