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The Difficult Conversation

How to Handle a Difficult Conversation

How to Handle Difficult ConversationsWhen do you use email? When do you text? In what circumstance do you announce a personal event on Facebook? Communicating has become so second nature to so many of us that we forget that there is an art to doing it well. Especially with the difficult conversation.
Would you break up with your girlfriend with an announcement on Facebook? Hopefully not. Would you dump her in a text? That is probably more possible – but also hopefully not.
Let’s move to the corporate arena. Would you lay-off 300 employees with an announcement on the corporate intranet? How about via email? Or, do you prefer to interface with your employees in person?

I find that more and more we are getting comfortable with exercising what I am going to call “deliberate avoidance” through texting and email. Gone is the boardroom door closed behind our private conversations, now we are recording our private conversations for posterity in an email and a text where we let contractors know they are no longer needed, boyfriends know they no longer turn our crank, and employees know they are laid off.

I think we are being too relaxed with that conversation. In fact, I would contend, it is not a conversation when it is simply words written on a screen and then pressing “send.” The conversation happens when we TALK to each other, back and forth. We hear each other, learn from each other and know more about each other as we communicate. This is all the more important when it is a difficult conversation.
Dealing with Difficult ConversationsConversations of all kinds are at the heart of relationships, and relationships are at the heart of good communications. It’s not just an announcement to your staff, it’s how you relate to each other during that announcement. Is the conversation two-way? Are you hearing your employees? Are they going to walk away from the conversation feeling they were treated well by their employer? Will they speak highly of your organization and your leadership style or not so much? How well you handle the difficult conversation impacts your reputation as an organization, as a leader, and as an individual.

This is how we operate at Tenato. We talk to each other. Yes, via Facebook, yes via texting and yes via email, and even on the phone and in person, but most importantly we have two-way conversations with each other. That is still what is at the heart of good communications: The two-way conversations where we learn from you and you learn from us.

Difficult Conversation well handledYes, this could be difficult. This could be uncomfortable. Do you need to lay-off an employee who has been “made redundant?” Do you need to close an area of your company that is no longer producing? These are difficult, uncomfortable conversations to have. But here’s the good news: Communications can help. Good communications allows for the flow of conversation between two or more parties. Employers will be able to help employees through difficult news. Plant operators will find out why their plant is being closed and how they can work through that. It doesn’t have to be all bad. Difficult, yes. Bad, no.

Tenato can help you frame that difficult conversation so that it is less difficult to deliver, and less difficult to receive.

What do you think? Message us with your thoughts and we’ll have an old-fashioned conversation… the new way… online. Or better yet, pick up the phone and we’ll speak in person. Heck we’ll even buy you a coffee. Because we are in the business of building relationships, not just delivering communications. Have a conversation. The old-fashioned way.

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Susan Elford
About the Author - Susan Elford
Susan Elford, BA (Hons), BPR, APR, Strategic Public Relations Associate With over 20 years in the business, Susan has special interest areas in strategic communications planning, community relations, corporate social responsibility, public consultation, media relations and communications policy development.

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