Let’s face it – no one likes having difficult conversations. They can make situations awkward, tense and downright unpleasant. These conversations are sometimes necessary, though.

If you find yourself needing to address a tricky topic at work, don’t assume you already know everything about the situation. It’s also important to acknowledge your emotions without letting them go unchecked.

A post on the Center for Creative Leadership blog says the best way to tackle difficult conversations is to approach things from a neutral position and then really listen. In this issue of PromoPro Daily, we outline the post, which explains how to handle those conversations you’d rather avoid but need to have.

1. Prepare for the three critical parts. According to the post, every difficult conversation includes three components:

• The what-happened conversation
• The feelings conversation
• The identity conversation

First, get to the root of what’s going on and then explore how those involved feel about it. Then, the post says you should ground your identity. In other words, think through how this situation may shake up your sense of identity.

2. Determine whether to bring up the issue. If you don’t really want to have a difficult conversation, maybe you don’t need to raise the issue at all. The post suggests asking yourself what you hope to accomplish by having the discussion. For example, do you want to prove a point, or can you affect the outcome? What will happen if you don’t bring it up at all?

3. Start from the “third story.” Think about the situation as though you’re a neutral person looking on and leading the discussion. The post suggests describing the problem as the difference between the two stories. Include both viewpoints as legitimate parts of the conversation.

4. Explore their story and yours. To understand the situation, try to unravel how you both got to this place. The post recommends sharing your viewpoint, intentions and feelings. Then, actively listen to get a better understanding of your colleague or team member’s perspective.

5. Switch into problem-solving mode. Wrap up difficult conversations by brainstorming ways to meet each side’s most important concerns. Keep in mind, the post says, that the relationships that always go one way rarely last. Stay flexible and open to different solutions.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership blog author, difficult conversations often need to happen because better conversations never occurred. Make sure you’re cultivating the kind of environment where people feel comfortable sharing their challenges and working together to find solutions. The next time challenging situations arise, your team will feel empowered to talk about it before things get out of hand.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: The Leading Effectively Staff contributed this piece for the Center for Creative Leadership blog.