How To Manage Difficult Conversations at Work

How To Manage Difficult Conversations at Work

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One of the major aspects of our career is we are bound to engage in tough conversations at work. Whether it’s talking to a colleague, supervisor or your client. Engaging in a difficult conversation is not easy, but there are ways to make those discussions to be productive.

What defines a difficult conversation? First of all, it is important to know what signifies a difficult conversation. It varies from person to person, for certain individuals it can be a tough conversation is someone else’s simple discussion. Some difficult conversation can be in the form of:

  • turning down a colleagues’ idea
  • encouraging a co-worker to improve
  • resolving a conflict between you and the other co-worker
  • telling your supervisor/client/customer about your mistakes or problems
  • engaged in a conversation with a frustrated client or customer


Shifting your mindset

If you are about to engage in a difficult conversation, you would certainly feel nervous and upset depending on the nature of the discussion. The discussion should not be shifted as a one-sided dialogue. Instead, it should benefit both sides by offering up a solution.


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Preparation is the key to a good outcome

Learn to outline what you plan to achieve from the discussion and the steps to reach the outcome. Come up with a few key points that will help you convey your message. Give some afterthought to the discussions such as how the person will react to it and how you should respond appropriately.


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Listen and acknowledge the opposing party perspective

Stay focus throughout the conversation by paying attention to what is being communicated through verbal and body language. If you are not able to fully understand the other person’s viewpoint, acknowledge and ask for further explanation. Express your desire to understand what the person is going through and try to approach the discussion with an open mind.


Come up with solutions

If you have engaged in a discussion that will put either or both sides in a difficult position, propose something that will reach a mutual agreement. Plan ahead or you can develop actionable solutions during the discussion itself. The solutions should always go hand-in-hand together with the purpose of the conversation. If you have a list of possible solutions, you can lay down the track of the discussion, show that the issues can be solved and have both sides part with a positive outcome.


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Reflect and learn

Once the conversation has concluded, it is good to reflect back and determine what went well and what did not. Think back why you reacted that way and what you could have reacted in a different scenario. Learn and seek feedback from your peers on how to cope with these difficult conversations and adopt their advice. Managing a difficult conversation is not just a skill, it requires a bit of courage as well.

What is your go-to step in handling a difficult conversation at work? Share it with us on the comment sections below. Follow us for more daily career insights and new hirings to land your dream job. Head over to and unveil your next job opportunity.

You Jing is a content writer who writes career and lifestyle contents to inspire job seekers and employers alike on their journey to work-life balance, empowerment and transformation in their career path.

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