Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to have a conversation at work you deemed ‘difficult'? Perhaps you were unhappy with a colleague’s behaviour; maybe you were having problems with your boss; or maybe your boss was approaching you regarding your performance.

Whatever the case, it may seem like a difficult feat to accomplish. The reality is avoiding tough conversations can actually do more harm than good. Avoidance can lead to lack of performance, resentment and can ultimately create a negative impact on you, your co-workers and your workplace.

What does ‘crucial conversation’ mean?
What makes something a crucial conversation is the fact that you have to address the situation at hand and still maintain a relationship with that person. 

Sensitive scenarios in the workplace can cause a lot of anxiety, especially if you’re unsure how to effectively communicate with the other person, but once you have the tools to successfully do so, your self-confidence will follow.   

The four steps to conducting a crucial conversation
Instead of avoiding crucial conversations, you need to muster the confidence to be able to confront people constructively using skill and empathy. Use these four steps to help you have your crucial conversation:

Before you jump right into your crucial conversation you have to adequately prepare. You want to create a clear and concise message to communicate the issue at hand.

Figure out what the issue is that needs to be addressed and plan on presenting factual information. It’s important when you have the conversation to address facts, as opposed to reacting to emotions or feelings.

Come up with a reasonable resolution that favours both parties so when you have the conversation, you can present this idea as well.

After you’ve prepared and have a general idea of what you’re going to say during the crucial conversation, reach out to the person you want to speak with. Let them know you would like to discuss an issue with them and give a brief context if necessary.

During the discussion, aim to communicate your ideas in a calm manner and present your facts. Give the person time to state their side of the story and this is where you need to really listen to what they are saying.

At the end of your crucial conversation you should reiterate any agreements you have come to as well as any disagreements and highlight if there are any actionable items. The conclusion is also a good time to bring up that you want the best for your working relationship and you appreciate that they took the time to speak with you to come to a resolution.

If you feel that you need more guidance in approaching crucial conversations, you can reach out to your Human Resources department. Your HR department is there to support you and will be able to provide guidance for preparing for a difficult situation.