5 Tips for Having a Difficult Conversation With a Boss or Co-Worker

It is never easy to approach a boss or co-worker about a difficult topic. In order to have a productive conversation that results in a solution or resolution, it is important to follow these tips for having a difficult conversation with a boss or co-worker:

businessmen shouting

1. Choose an Appropriate Time and Place

If you really want to talk to someone and have a difficult conversation, it is important to choose an appropriate time and place. Do not try to initiate an important conversation when the other person is rushing out the door or to a meeting. Make sure that you initiate the conversation when you will both not be distracted with other work. Ask the other person if it would be a good time to talk. If not, set up another time.

2. Choose Somewhere Private

If you are having a difficult conversation with a co-worker or boss, chances are the conversation topic is something sensitive. Take the conversation somewhere private and quiet. Choose a location where others are not likely to walk in and disrupt your conversation. A private and quiet place will make each party feel more comfortable talking openly.

3. Do Not Be Judgmental or Confrontational 

Think about the words you use and how you frame your conversation. Focus on facts and observable behaviors. Do not rely on your own opinion or second hand facts. People tend to get upset when they feel that they are being judged. Frame statements as “I messages” instead of “you messages.” Remember to focus on actions, not emotions.

4. Listen Actively

Make sure that you listen actively to the other person in the conversation. You can avoid a defensive conversation by really listening and trying to understand the other person’s emotions and point of view. You do not have to agree with them. You just need to show that you are listening and acknowledge that the other person’s viewpoint and emotions are valid.

5. Focus on Future Goals

One way to make a difficult conversation turn out successfully is to focus on future goals. Take the time to address the issue at hand. Then, set a goal for the future. Work together to come up with actionable steps. Envision together what the steps and goals look like. This will allow both parties to leave the conversation feeling like something has been accomplished.

Following these 5 simple tips for having a difficult conversation with a boss or co-worker will make your conversation much easier. Remember to pick an appropriate time, select a quiet place, do not be confrontational, listen actively and set future goals together. If you follow these five steps, you’ll find the conversation will not feel difficult at all.

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