When You Put the Difficult in Difficult Conversation
By Jordan Rodney | Published in Dialogue Magazine >>
Difficult conversations may put you out of your comfort zone. They may be awkward and even embarrassing at times. However, though they may be the most delicate conversations to have, they are often necessary. Typically, these conversations take place face to face, leaving parties without the shield of email or text messages. They may be about sensitive topics occurring at work, such as employee performance or personality conflicts, or topics of a more personal nature that impact the workplace, such as hygiene or ethics.
At times, these conversations are simply difficult because of the particular individual involved. A person may feel the other party is difficult to talk with and relate to. Have you experienced this? If so, have you ever stopped to think that perhaps the other person is not the one making the conversation difficult, but rather, you are?
It may be you who is the difficult person to speak to in the workplace due to your management style, your tone, how comfortable you are around others, or even something you cannot quite put your finger on. Ultimately, determining the specific reason is not critical. Your focus should be on personal growth and development. Are you a person who cares to improve your behaviour? If not, maybe the following study will change your mind.
The Gallup organization recently found that 71% of people who left their company said it was because of their direct manager, not because of their wages or the actual job they were performing. There is no doubt that a leader in an organization holds an important position and it should be a given that workplaces need admirable leaders. Organizations with a strong network of respected leaders cultivate a positive work environment, where employees are highly engaged and productive.
If you care about your organization and its continued success, you should focus on how to improve your own individual leadership style.
It Takes All Kinds
There is a wide array of difficult people who can make difficult conversations even more challenging.
Are you the Exploder? Do you jump to react to situations at full volume, and often regret your conduct afterwards because you feel you lost your cool?
Are you a Staller, taking on every task you think you can handle and then leaving them incomplete for someone else to come clean up your messes?
Are you a Know-It-All, who claims to be an expert on any and all subject matters to the point of belittling others you feel may be less informed on the topic?
Or, even more forceful, a Sherman Tank, who will attack and bulldoze anyone in their paths, leaving their opponents feeling powerless.
Is it possible you are a Complainer, who finds fault with everything? There may just be no pleasing you, as you gripe about anything and everything you can and constantly assign blame to others.
Or perhaps you may even be the quietest of all, the Clam. The Clam is only capable of providing one-word, non-committal answers, thus making dialogue nearly impossible. (Dealing with Difficult People, University of Iowa, 2000)
The key is self-awareness. The more you know about yourself, your emotional triggers and how to regulate these triggers, the easier it will be to make the necessary improvements.
If you already know that you may be a difficult individual in the workplace, you are a step ahead. Knowing oneself includes knowing your strengths, your hot buttons and your areas for development. Greater self-awareness is foundational for your workplace behaviour so that you can lead with your strengths.
You are always more than the image you present. The entirety of your personality is fashioned by a variety of elements, as seen through the Johari Window model. Only one portion of your personality is your public image. The other elements include perceptions that others have of you that you may not be aware of (i.e., blind spots), parts of your personality not publicly visible that others may not be aware of, and elements of your personality unknown to both yourself and others.
In order to truly develop, you need to be able to uncover your blind spots. This may be difficult to face head-on, but acknowledging them will create an enhanced self-awareness, which will make you a more effective leader at work.
Tips and Tricks
If you realize that you may be a difficult person at work, there are ways to overcome it.
- Keep an open mind. Understanding and altering one’s behaviour is a process that requires patience and commitment. Being open to feedback will only contribute to this process.
- Remember to plan ahead. It is necessary to be aware of your words and actions. Before entering a difficult conversation, consider the relationship you have with the other party and the one you wish to preserve after the conversation. Z Be conscious of your actions. Monitor your words, tone of voice, body language and temper carefully to ensure the situation does not get out of hand.
- Be considerate of those around you. Workplaces are made up of an array of personalities and perspectives. Reminding yourself to be respectful of others will go a long way.
Practicing these tips will help you grow and increase your chances of having effective conversations and maintaining positive relationships with your colleagues. Learning about yourself is a lifelong journey. However, once you become aware of your development areas, you can focus on turning those blind spots into areas of strength. The change you notice in your workplace will be worth all the extra effort.