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Conducting Difficult Conversations (Professional Plus Members Only)

Thursday, January 30, 2014 2:00pm - 3:00pm EST  
Host: Association for Talent Development
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When people anticipate a dialogue with a perceived negative outcome it causes them to feel anxiety or experience a negative emotional response. This type of dialogue is called a difficult conversation and it occurs whenever one person is in the position to provide feedback to a less than optimal scenario with another person.

We have emotions and respond to criticism whether it is solicited or not. This leads to us thinking that we cannot experience emotions in the workplace and, worse, cannot express them. As a result we try to become inhuman, and start repressing our emotions. This resistance to expressing our emotions is part of what causes the difficult conversation.

Difficult conversations can take place when giving feedback about poor performance, inappropriate behavior, personal hygiene, or inappropriate attire. You should approach the conversation differently depending on the scenario and the magnitude of the behavior or performance. Who you are talking to will also change the way you have the conversation. What is that person’s level in the organization and how does that relate to you? Is the person a superior, a colleague or peer, a direct report, or someone from another department or team? The most important thing to remember is that you need to avoid being confrontational, because that will just make a difficult situation even harder.

Do you have a history with the individual? Is it coloring your observations? Past history could influence the actions you take or the words you use when providing feedback. Do not get into a difficult conversation on a whim, shooting from the hip. In other words, do not approach an individual to provide critical feedback based on your emotional response to your observations.

Preparation is very important in a difficult conversation. What do you intend to get out of the difficult conversation? What is your desired outcome? You should also anticipate the possible outcomes and consequences of your conversation. How will it change your current relationship with that person? How will that person react? How will it affect that person’s self-confidence, productivity, and so on?


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Stuart Friedman is a business visionary who, as a top executive for a Fortune 500 company, embarked on a three-year journey to build a $750 million services division employing 5,500 and far exceeding corporate financial and customer service expectations. Stuart is an experienced consultant who is not your typical consultant or coach. With a communication style that is honest and direct, Stuart uses humor, the power of the analogy, and insight to balance teaching conceptual ideas with facilitating tactical discussions aligned with the behaviors of clients. He is a top-rated international speaker who has conducted more than 500 presentations and 175 speaking engagements around the world.

Stuart is committed to helping his clients achieve their strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires. He guided an organization from a projected $1.7 million loss to realizing a $20,000 profit in a four-month period, and guided a vice president to promotion as partner in one year versus a projected three-year time frame. He is also the author of the book, Break Free From JobJail…and You Don't Have To Quit Your Job! and a regular columnist for the Long Beach Business Journal. Stuart writes from his experience working with owners, CEOs, and senior leaders to achieve strategic outcomes, increase organizational profitability, and guide individuals toward achieving their heartfelt desires.

Connect with Stuart at www.pma-co.com or on LinkedIn.


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