Why challenging conversations are good

What can you do if you’ve experienced a challenging conversation?

Montage of people in the workplace.

Conflicts or challenges at work are almost always due to poor communication. People might send mixed messages, say one thing but do another, or they might not listen at all. However, you can learn from the experience and gain newfound understanding. It’s all about your perspective.

Change your perspective

Challenging conversations can be an important part of achieving a successful outcome at work. If you approach them constructively, they can become a moment for personal growth. As you saw in Week 1, one of the best ways to improve your communication is through practice in real-life situations. Therefore you should try and approach any challenging conversations at work as an opportunity for practice, rather than an obstacle.

Tips for managing challenging conversations

Here are eight tips to help you to resolve and navigate challenging conversations:

  1. Embrace the fact that challenging conversations are an opportunity for growth and address any issues as soon as you feel calm and centred.
  2. Set clear expectations to avoid confusion.
  3. Listen carefully and give the person your complete attention.
  4. Recognise and respect personal differences.
  5. Find points of agreement.
  6. Make the other person feel heard by reflecting back what they’ve said and fostering eye contact.
  7. Use ‘I’ statements instead ‘you’ statements so that you focus on your own feelings and beliefs rather than the person you are speaking with. Your conversational tone becomes softer and less accusatory.
  8. When structuring feedback, try this approach: state what happened, then how it made you feel and finally conclude with a solution of how it can be made better. It’s best to take responsibility for your reaction and come with an idea of how things can be improved.

Further your understanding:

Want to learn more about using challenging conversations to your advantage? You can access more information from the See Also section.

Share your experiences:

Have you experienced any challenging conversations at work, or in college or university? What did you learn from them?

Share your perspectives with other learners in the Comments section.

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This article is from the free online course:

Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work

University of Leeds