Eight steps to handling a difficult conversation
Do all your homework so you have the best information and recommendation for your client.
2. Active listening
Give the other person all of your attention, rather than planning what you are going to say while they are talking.
"Don't think about what you will say until the other person has stopped thinking. Don't interrupt or talk over them," Gowlland says.
3. Open questions
To make sure you fully understand the issues, use the ‘when’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ questions. Try to avoid the ‘why’ questions – such as ‘why did you…’ – because they tend to make people defensive, Gowlland says.
If you shift to a learning frame of mind, trying to discover what is really going on with the other person, what may be behind the conflict and what you have done to contribute to it – you can avoid being drawn into unproductive emotion.
Take what you are hearing from the other person and repeat it back to them in your own words, focusing on the problem, not the person.
6. Find areas of agreement
"It will reduce the magnification of disputed areas if you can find some common ground," Gowlland says.
7. Move forward
Try to get an agreement from the other person about how you can move forward from there, even if you have not been able to come up with a solution.
‘Enroll’ them in the outcome by asking if you can go away to do more research and come back to them the next day.
8. Support yourself
Sometimes, challenging conversations are unexpected, but you can keep a piece of paper nearby to remind you to ask open questions and adopt a learning frame of mind.