In my last post I observed that many people, in particular business owners and professional advisors would rather avoid a difficult conversation than tackle it head on.

Recently, I needed to leave a networking group which I was a member of. I was adamant that I wasn’t going to cop out and tell the owner of the group my reason for leaving was, ‘too much client work’, and leave the real problems (which would help him to know) unsaid.

I’ll be honest, I avoided the conversation for a couple of weeks, and then I got THAT phone call. The one I couldn’t avoid, and the question I couldn’t avoid. ‘You said you had some feedback which would help me with my groups?’

I took a deep breath, prepared myself for the difficult conversation… no lightning bolt hit me, there was no animosity and we had a constructive and pleasant conversation. I was very surprised as I was likening this conversation to a visit to the dentist – you know you have to go, but it’s not going to be pleasant. (More on this conversation in a later blog post)

It has been proven that if a person is prepared to have a difficult conversation, then the relationship can often strengthen rather than weaken. My relationship with the head of my ex-networking group has indeed strengthened, My question is thus, what is stopping us having a difficult conversation?

These are some typical reasons why we avoid having a (often perceived) difficult conversation:

  • We want people to like us
  • We are worried about what reaction we will get
  • We don’t know how they will take the conversation
  • We are worried that we will make the situation worse
  • We’ve had difficult conversations in the past which have gone badly
  • We don’t want to damage the relationship
  • We hate experiencing conflict
  • Perhaps we don’t think having the conversation will change anything

The interesting thing in this whole list, are most of the reasons we delay having the conversation are all in our head. There is very often little grounding in fact for us to delay or refuse to have the conversation.

Many times in business, and in my personal life, I have seen relationships break down, because people are not prepared to have the difficult conversation… Or poor performers bring down the morale in a firm because management are not prepared to tackle the poor performance.

What is stopping you having a difficult conversation?

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