Managing Stressful Conversations

We chatter and tattle and blather and gag. But sometimes—unlikely—we have stressful conversations, those sensitive exchanges that can hurt or haunt us like nothing else but being under pressure. You just can’t avoid stressful conversations into business and in various social communications, where there situation varies from letting your subordinate go, or from a slighter perspective receiving a compliment, no matter what situation, stressful talk are always bulky emotional bursts, and filled with anxiety and guilt in some cases. These conversations results in embarrassment, confusion, anxiety, anger, pain, or fear—if not in us, then could be into the person we are in talks. Managing stressful conversation isn’t necessarily about avoiding the causing effects or ignoring the anxiety. However sometimes it can worsen the sensitive issues, or in other cases pacify difficult minds or simply calm down resentment. But avoidance isn’t the optimum solution

Since these Stressful situation or conversation are so common and almost happens every day, it is ideal that we sort out a better working solution to eliminate conflict from out work and social life, we know that conflict is normal, that it can be resolved—or at least managed. But when spirits get stirred up, most of us are un-calm. Just like a strong defend in football blocking us away from sweet sport for goals.

For over 4 year, I have been teaching corporate people and conducting workshops at some of the top corporations and universities in Pakistan on how to communicate during stressful conversations. With classrooms as my laboratory, I have learned that most people feel incapable of talking through sensitive issues. It’s as though all our skills go out the window and we can’t think usefully about what’s happening or what we could do to resolve those conflicts.

I’ve noticed managers and executive unilaterally handling stressful conversation like hot knife on the butter, yet there is no one size fits all strategy which can be applied to managing stressful conversations – especially when you are working in a cutthroat challenging work environment and looking for results. Each set of conversation is unique in its nature varying types of people and nature of impact seen after its completed. Let’s explore how you stand in front of stressful conversations, but let’s look at several basic stressful conversations that we knock up against mostly in the workplace setting.

Here’s a Bad News

Disclosing a bad or sad news is always stressful for a speaker and difficult to listen to from listener, there’s tension on discloser and dread on listener. However to make this clear take an example of a person name Mr. Naseem working in an FMCG company in a leading production role, with extremely high opinion of his position and performance which was has been artificially recorded by the people having a reluctant yet not of concern attitude towards his. Naseem has been unceasingly cocky and humorous around people making them uncomfortable and averse to converse properly – where no one was willing to critique his style and attitude made him brash and bully to surrounding. Now looking at the situation their director in operation Mr. Tauseef has decided to talk to him about his attitude, yet it’s difficult to convey the message keeping it should not enflame the situation keeping the juice in the relationships, Mr. Tauseef started the conversation on a lighter note where Mr. Naseem couldn’t sense the real objective and remained in his alike brashness Mr. Tauseef completed the talk mentioning each of the points, leaving Mr. Naseem Speechless, heads on the floor Mr. Naseem left and not surprisingly handed his resignation after a day, taking a lot of institutional memory—and talent—with him.

What’s Going on here

For the people who are conflict averse – stressful conversation could turn the situation on a worse note, immediately conversation become less of a talk and more of a debate and then and argument leaving both parties in a sparky mood to cut the battle out for themselves. Logics become baseless and argument pointless and seemingly ending.
Take an example of Miss. Neha and Mr. Ali’s case both are working on a project on leading position for consulting firm – The two consultants were meeting to revise their schedule, given the delays, and to divide up the discouraging tasks for the week ahead. As they talked, Neha wrote on the board the tasks and deadlines in the end drew and line with the sentence, That’s it!, which infuriated Mr. Ali feel inferior yet remained calmed and provokingly wrote after : As you say so!

Neha shockingly observed the disconnection and embarrassment of misunderstanding she said I am sorry and asked, Mr. Ali is something wrong with this? Ali who was calm furiously said who put you in a position to lead me and direct the instructions without my opinion. And the exchange of stressful conversation started and left Miss. Neha resentful for her choice of words and stance, she again apologized and asked Mr. Ali how he want the work divided which soothed the temper and heat and left both with the regret of misunderstanding and has set the instance for unequal status – they remain the lead for the project but didn’t couple for another one.

You’re getting personal

Let’s now look at aggressively stressful conversations, during which both parties use psychological and rhetorical techniques to put the other one down – these conversation involute many forms of ill-language and profanity, shouting and personal targeting.

Take an example of Mr. Rehan and Mr. Umair both working for a media agency, Mr. Rehan Manager business development had a very harsh conversation with the client who was unhappy with the details and graphics of their latest commercial, a discrepancy was identified by client from Mr. Rehan’s promise of delivering the best looking commercial let the customer infuriate on him. Where Mr. Rehan being not completely aware of the technical details approached his agency’s editorial manager Mr. Umair who completely disregarded the problem and started accusing, digressing Mr. Rehan for overstating, started an aggressive conversation which ended with profanity and personal targeting – both lost their yearly promotion as they missed their old client over faulty communication and their ability to respond properly.

Getting ready for a stressful conversation

So the question is how can we prepare and get ready for these three situation before it’s out of our control, Tauseef, Neha, & Rehan were unable to control their counterparts, however their stressful conversations would have gone much better if they had been practically aware of their vulnerabilities. It is important for those who are vulnerable to aggression, for example, to know how they react to it. Do they withdraw or worsen—do they clam up or react? While one reaction is not better than the other, knowing how you react in a stressful situation will clarify you a lot about your vulnerabilities, and it can help you master stressful situations.

Building awareness is not about infinite reflection. Much of it simply involves making our tacit knowledge about ourselves more overt. We all know from past experience, for example, what kinds of conversations and people we handle badly. When you find yourself in a difficult conversation, ask yourself whether this is one of those situations and whether it involves one of those people. For instance, do you shut down when you feel disqualified? Once you know what your tamper angle are, you can expect your vulnerability and recover your stance dealing a particular case.

An exceptional way to anticipate specific problems that you may encounter in a stressful conversation is to practice with a unbiased counterpart. Pick someone who doesn’t have the same communication problems as you. Ideally, the counterpart should be a good listener, honest but easy-going. Start with content. Just tell your friend what you want to say to your counterpart without worrying about tone or phrasing. Be brutal, be nervous, jump around in your argument, but get it out. Now practice again and think about what you would say if the situation weren’t emotionally loaded. Your friend can help you because he or she is not in a rosiness of emotion over the situation. Write down alternative responses incase you’ll forget it later.

Managing Stressful Conversations

While it is important to be aware and to practice before a stressful conversation, these steps are not enough. Let’s look at what you can do as these stressful conversations unfold. Reflect to Neha’s case the team leader whose colleague claimed she was taking control. She couldn’t think well on her in that situation where rather being confronted and dragged down she could have the right answers to confrontation — Though such a solution sounds simple, most of us don’t have a tool kit of conversational tactics ready at hand. We need to learn communications skills, in the same way that we learn First Aid Skills – In advance, knowing that when we need to use them, the situation will be critical and tense. Here are three proven communication maneuvers.

1. Respect the Partner

When Tauseef gave Naseem the negative feedback he flashed his comments out in a monotonous way, the result could be favorable if he stated the problem first to make the point less apprehensive and personal, sudden change in the pace could mostly turn good conversation end up bad, having shared the responsibility and authority with Naseem he could have achieved a sense of trust and letting their previous relationship work in favor of the conversation, Acknowledging responsibility as a technique—particularly as an opening—can be effective because it immediately focuses attention, but without provocation, on the difficult things the speaker needs to say and the listener needs to hear.

However there is still, no one size fits all technique in conversation or conflict management, But with the case of Mr. Naseem lack of communication not only let a performer leave a company but the burden of information leak is also remained with the leading person joining other organizations.

2. Clarify your intention / neutrally navigate orders

In the case of Neha and Ali, conflict of status cased the heat which could have been resolved by Neha with the restatement of her intention and not allowing the spark to lit the wood, preventing any misunderstanding dis-arms any kind of conversational glitches and resolved the problem. Invite other to question confusion and openly share the clarifications.

However the inside urge of navigating instruction sometime unintentionally create harm to the counterparts emotions and may convert a productive conversations into arguments and disputes, while being persuasive equally seek the consent and opinion as the sealing agent into your conversation that require immediate and timely result with collaborations.

3. Combat Strategies, not People

Referring to the final conversation between Mr. Rehan & Umair, the conversation if followed: Umair we’ve worked together pretty well for a long time. I don’t know how to talk about what went wrong with that client he’s always our satisfied client but this commercial has turned him down, and what is with those graphical discrepancies which were communicated to the client we need to restore this project , what are your feelings about it,” would have changed the game completely. He neither would have attacked Rehan nor remained the pledge of his tactics. But he would have made Rehan’s tactics in the conversation the dominant problem.

Finding a meeting spot into conversation drives the conversation therefore identify the tactic to trigger the right edge in to every conversation, soothes the counterpart and follows with the problem without being confronted with personal attack, and loosen aggression as communication progress.

People think stressful conversations are inevitable. And they are. But that doesn’t mean they have to have bad resolutions. The guidance and tools described in this article can be helpful in individually reducing the anxiety in stressful conversations. All you have to do is try them. If one method doesn’t work, try another. Find phraseology that feels natural. But keep practicing—you’ll gradually improve at Managing Stressful conversations.

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