Tough conversations

I think it is important to be clear with others. I like more and more to set out my stall. I ask people to keep things confidential when I want them to remain confidential, I say sorry when I do something wrong and I am prepared to have difficult conversations (as in this week). It is good to be open and transparent with others because then we will have a good reputation. We all get it wrong, but equally we all get it right a lot of the time.

I had an open and honest conversation with a dear friend this week. We were honest with one another about something that just didn’t work. And it preserved our friendship to admit it didn’t. This is being clear to be kind. I relaly like this article on this subject, by Melissa Hereford, so am sharing it today

I recently worked with a woman who had been promoted from a manager to a director.

When you get promoted, you’re suddenly responsible for people. When they’re doing well, you celebrate. When they’re not doing well, you have to figure out what to say to encourage them to get better.

What you say can make or break them.

So there we were, this new Director and I. Her goal was to give performance feedback to one of her direct reports. To essentially tell this person, “you’re not doing well, here’s what you need to work on.”

She started the conversation with about 5 questions: How are you? How’s work? Wasn’t your mom sick? How is she doing? What are you working on?

Now we’re 15 minutes into a 30 minute meeting and she hasn’t even broached the subject of the meeting.

Asking questions is great when you WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER.

I asked her what’s going on? Why are you nowhere near the topic of this meeting?

And she said she just can’t figure out how to broach the topic with her direct report.

Her direct report was probably wondering the same thing. She’s thinking, “Why has my manager called me in here to chit chat?” She’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, to find out whats wrong.

You can be clear and be kind. 

You can be clear and likable. In fact, when you’re clear, people feel taken care of rather than confused.

What she could say instead of asking questions

Here are a few examples to think about for your own tough conversations.

If you’re the boss

CLEARLY STATE WHY SHE’S HERE: “I asked you to come in today to talk about the number of days you’ve been telecommuting.”

CLEARLY STATE THE SITUATION without anything personal or any judgements: “You’re over the allowed time…” AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE,  “and are in danger of being reclassified as a remote worker.”

If you’re talking to your boss

CLEARLY STATE WHY SHE’S HERE: “I asked to meet with you today because I’d like to talk about the Smith project.”

CLEARLY STATE THE SITUATION without anything personal or any judgements:  “I got some negative feedback about the end result from the client…” AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE, “and want to discuss what happened and how I can improve.”


CLEARLY STATE WHY SHE’S HERE: “I’d like to talk about my career opportunities here.”

CLEARLY STATE THE SITUATION without anything personal or any judgements: “I’d like to be sure you know what I am interested in doing next…” AND FOCUS ON THE FUTURE, “so that I can continue to produce outstanding results and advance my career.”

Try taking the fluff out of your tough conversations. Say it clear and say it kind. Your kindness will come through when you mean it.


You can be clear and be kind

Published by hope2020exchangingdisappointmentforhope

I am a qualified social worker and run a community project for vulnerable adults. I am passionate about social justice. I feel that every life matters. No-one is insignificant or invaluable. I also believe that everyone has the power to change, although some may not wish to. Essentially, I believe in hope. Hope Wells is my writing name.

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