Communicators will inevitably face many difficult conversations over the course of a career.
Times of crisis tend to hasten and heighten these tough talks. However, when tempers flare and people are panicking, we must be the calming voice of reason with our leaders. Here are three things to consider before you wade into a contentious conversation.
1. Be clear.
The last thing you want to do is ramble or beat about the bush. Some senior leaders are not used to being told “no,” or that they’re wrong about something, but it’s your job to boldly and clearly speak the truth. Tell them what the problem is, why it’s a problem and what you suggest they do instead. Be bold, be brief, be gone.
2. Be prepared.
Don’t just dive into what will surely be a heated conversation. Whenever possible, gather facts and data to shore up your case, and prep your key points. Preparation is key to keeping your cool and maximizing persuasion.
3. Be calm.
Don’t allow your emotions to get in the way, whether that’s anger, disbelief or sadness. If you find yourself getting worked up, it might be wise to take a break. Find a quiet place where you can regroup, take deep breaths, and get your points written down. Then go back to the conversation.
If the person you’re speaking to is getting overly emotional or unprofessional, it’s OK remove yourself from the situation. Give the other party time to cool off, then chat again when everyone has had some time to recover.
Final point: Remember that your role is to advise and guide. You might not “win” every argument, but you must be willing to enter the fray and make your voice heard–even in heated situations.