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Management Tip

How to turn a Difficult Conversation into a Positive one.

As a manager or supervisor at work people often feel the need to bring you their problems or you may need to discuss problems that they are causing. Most managers find this a difficult engagement but, with a clear plan to structure the conversation, early intervention can prevent even bigger problems developing further down the line. Follow our six-step guide below to turn a difficult conversation into a positive one.

Step 1

Listen carefully to what the other person wants but don't take responsibility for the problem. It's their problem. Once you have established what needs to change, find out who can deliver the change.

Step 2

State the issue in a positive way. Turn a negative statement such as 'I don't want to keep chasing suppliers' into a positive one such as 'I want suppliers to deliver the right goods at the right time'. By focusing on what needs to change you keep sight of solutions and start to loose the negativity.

Step 3

Explore their previous successes in similar situations, or get them to think about others who are good at managing the situation. Discuss the skills and competence that may be needed to progress to a positive outcome.

Step 4

Stay positive, perhaps give an example of a success in a similar situation in the past and build the individual's confidence in tackling the issue.

Step 5

Agree a first step. Don't create panic or fear by compiling a long, daunting list of tasks. Focus on first steps. Once there is a clear focus on what to achieve and confidence that they have the skills to achieve it they will be able to identify their own first steps.

Step 6

Follow-up by asking what went well and stay focused on the positives. Remind the individual of what they have already achieved to build confidence and positivity.

Further help

If you find that the individual doesn't have the skills or experience to tackle a difficult problem it doesn't mean that they can pass the problem on. Consider further coaching or a skills development course such as 'First-time team Leader', 'Assertiveness' or 'Negotiation and Influencing Skills' .

For further support to help you tackle difficult conversations consider role playing the conversation with a colleague first or our 'Challenging Conversations' workshop.