Most people hate conflict. It can be especially troublesome when conflict happens at work. You do not want to say the wrong thing and appear unprofessional, but you also want the situation to change. It helps to have a few tips tucked away for when you need to have an unpleasant conversation with someone on your sales team.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share guidance from Lisa Kohn, principal of Chatsworth Consulting Group, on how to have difficult but sometimes necessary conversations at work.

Steer clear of toxic behaviors. Relationship expert John Gottman calls them “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” These relationship destroyers are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. Kohn says most of us engage in these behaviors at some point, but there are ways you can work around them. Start by ensuring all parties are willing to be aware of these tendencies and to call them out.

Notice your own triggers. Emotions tend to run high during difficult conversations. When something triggers you, you may want to attack or withdraw, says Kohn. Either way, you are hurting the conversation and the relationship. Ideally, we would all be able to manage our emotional outbursts and shutdowns, but this doesn’t always happen. When you feel yourself getting worked up, Kohn recommends taking a break, taking deep breaths or maybe even taking a quick walk to let out some pent-up energy. When you come back, you will be more rational and effective.

Bring in a facilitator. If the situation at work is particularly prickly, consider finding a facilitator to help you navigate the conversation. Facilitators can help with one-on-one conversations, small team meetings or help lead entire leadership discussions. Kohn says facilitators are helpful because they are third-party individuals who have no agenda other than to help you work through a situation.

Always assume the best. Whether you disagree with one of your peers or one of your bosses, remember that most people have the best interests of the team or the organization in mind. When you pause and consider this, you have a stepping stone to move through the conversation productively, says Kohn. Chances are, you have assumed the other person has less-than-good intentions. By shifting your mindset, you can help move the discussion forward positively.

Conflict, while uncomfortable, can be productive when you approach it in the right way. Always be sure to note and call attention to behaviors that may undermine the discussion. You should also stay aware of what upsets you personally, so you don’t respond out of anger.

If necessary, recruit an outside party to help you proceed with the conversation. And, above all, remember that you and the other person probably have your team’s best interests at heart. When you keep this in mind, you set yourself up for a better outcome at the end of a difficult discussion.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Lisa Kohn is principal of Chatsworth Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience partnering with Fortune 500 clients in areas of leadership, communication styles, managing change, interpersonal and team dynamics, and strategy.

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