Looking back, what were the consequences of the so-called “difficult conversations” you had? And how does it compare to your expectations before the conversation?
One of the big challenges with difficult conversations is how they’ll often seem foreign to the expectations perceived in the organization.
Organizations tend to promote an idea of how communication should flow and how people should engage in fluid exchange. Adding an idealizing layer of positivism to this, the simple idea that something might be at stake in a conversation leads to a sense of stress and fear of failure.
In such a context, a conversation involving personal risk, having an uncertain outcome, and possibly generating emotions is a contradiction to the visible culture. It invites the belief that conversations that make people feel uncomfortable should be exceptional.
After a while, such a culture indeed makes them exceptional.
However, it is for the wrong reason. Instead of engaging in them, they are avoided. The tension is pushed below the surface.
The established dynamic of avoidance keeps people away from such conversations, that is until it is high emotions that open the door for difficult conversations in a single burst. These conversations quickly become personal as it is whatever was at risk, that initiated them.
It is a setting in which the conversation comes to the people instead of being initiated by them.