How to Change the Tone of a Difficult Conversation

Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

If you work with anyone long enough you’re bound to encounter a difference of opinion. But when a tough conversation starts spiraling out of control, how do you get it back on track?

o First, understand that when people disagree it’s often because one party misinterprets the feedback they’ve received as a personal attack, as in, “If you like my idea, you like me,” or, “If you don’t like my idea, you don’t like me.”

o To decrease tension, it’s important to deliberately reaffirm your commitment to the relationship at hand — this way there’s no confusion around what the argument is actually about. Disentangle personal issues from business issues by momentarily focusing on the relationship, using statements like “I really want to work on this with you” and “I bet we can figure this out together.”

o Reaffirming your commitment to the other person can significantly alter the tenor of the conversation.

Adapted from “Defusing an Emotionally Charged Conversation with a Colleague,” by Ron Friedman

To check out that resource and join the discussion, please click here.

Also, you may wish to check out an anthology, Management Tips from Harvard Business Review, by clicking here

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