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Navigating Challenging Discussions

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Setting expectations for a return to working on-site more frequently and consistently is a common topic these days. In this forum, we help you prepare for productive interactions and share key support resources to help you lead challenging discussions, such as return to on-site and a variety of other work conversations—new work policies, behavior, performance, or a workplace conflict. 

Resources for this topic

Tips to prepare yourself for the conversation

  • Awareness of your relationship and feelings about the subject/person. Challenging conversations happen even with colleagues you may have a great relationship with and you may have to deliver information that could be challenging; think about what your key message is.  
  • Neutralizing negativity and assumptions. Think of their perspective and how it might make sense to them. The person is likely not wanting to be resistant, they just think differently than you may. 
  • Imagine the conversation going well. Visualizing it going well helps you feel grounded and gives you a roadmap.
  • Practice skills of managing resistance/difficulty before getting to the conversation. To help feel confident, practice the challenging conversation with someone else or in the mirror.  
  • If you get into trouble, outfocus. Keep from getting physiologically triggered during the conversation by reminding yourself that you are practicing active listening and focusing on what the person is saying to add validation like “Okay, I understand..” then circle back to you key message or share that you will take their concerns and will get back to them. 

Key points to help you guide the discussion

  • Expect to have more than one conversation. People need time to process emotions and information before they can move on to problem solving and decision making.
  • Use the Aikido technique to help you navigate resistance and keep your goal in mind. Start with sending your message clearly;  use active listening techniques to help keep the focus on the topic and not the resistance; repeat your message.  Resist the urge to debate.
  • Ask open-ended questions; don’t assume. Instead of guessing what may be at the heart of the other person’s resistance, ask them open ended questions and explore.  Repeat back what you heard as part of active listening.
  • Partner to problem-solve. Provide information and invite the other person to help come up with solutions or compromises.

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