Tips for Managing Your Emotions In Difficult Conversations by Cindy Stradling CPC, CSL

Difficult conversations are a natural part of workplace interactions, although they are never easy. Whether addressing performance issues, delivering bad news on projects, or resolving conflicts, these conversations often evoke strong emotions for all involved.

Having the skills and abilities to manage your emotions during these discussions is crucial for maintaining professionalism and achieving a positive outcome. The good news is that there are some highly effective and practical tips for managing your emotions during difficult conversations in and out of the workplace.

Mentally Prepare

Before entering a difficult conversation, take some time to prepare yourself mentally. Anticipate potential challenges and think about how you will respond. Remind yourself of the purpose of the conversation and the desired outcome. When you are prepared, you are less likely to react and more likely to give a thoughtful response.

Stay Calm and Breathe

During the conversation, staying calm is critical. When you are able to control your emotional level and responses, it is easier to keep the conversation on track and productive. Take deep breaths and focus on maintaining a neutral tone of voice and relaxed body language. Consciously lower your shoulders and focus on releasing your jaw if you tend to find you are feeling tense.

Use Active Listening Techniques

Listen actively to what the other person is saying. This means giving them your full attention, acknowledging their feelings, and responding by acknowledging the information they share. Actively listening and nodding or repeating what they said does not mean agreement, but it does show you are listening and attempting to see the issue from other points of view.

Use Empathy

Show empathy towards the other person and his or her feelings, experiences, and perceptions of the issue. Acknowledge their emotions and validate their perspective, even if you disagree. This can help build trust and create a collaborative or understanding approach to the problem rather than stay on opposite sides of the issue.

Use “I” Statements

When expressing your thoughts and feelings, use “I” statements to take ownership of your emotions. For example, instead of saying, “You always make me feel frustrated,” say, “I feel frustrated when this happens.” Avoid blaming, shaming, or attributing the problem to the other person. This is not helpful in resolving the problem.

Take Breaks if Necessary

If the conversation becomes too heated or overwhelming, don’t be afraid to take a short break. This can give you time to collect your thoughts and emotions before continuing the conversation. Going for a short walk and out of a tense situation can help engage creativity and problem-solving options.

Focus on Solutions

Instead of dwelling on the problem for the conversation, focus on finding solutions. Brainstorm with the other person to find ways to address the issue constructively and create a customized solution.

Difficult conversations are never easy, but they can be productive if you can stay calm and focused on resolving the issue.