How to handle a difficult conversation gracefully

Posted on: November 9, 2016

Are you putting off a tricky conversation with a colleague that you know you need to have – but are dreading?

I recently heard that the 3 main things that cause people stress at work are:

  • lack of time
  • technology, and
  • other people!

Learning how to handle challenging conversations gracefully is one of the most useful skills you can ever acquire – and will radically decrease your stress.

I learnt a great tip from Wendy Palmer, the originator of a powerful somatic intelligence approach called Leadership Embodiment, which shows us how to harness the power of posture to be a more effective leader.

When you are having a difficult exchange with someone, it’s easy to let their words impact on you at a bodily level. You might feel them in your heart or gut and feel “triggered” by them. This can cause you to react unskilfully which just triggers an even worse reaction from the other person – and so it goes on.

Instead, when you’re having a difficult exchange, imagine the other person’s words landing on the table between you (if there is no table then just visualise them landing in the space between you). This gives you the opportunity to consider what is being said in a calmer way, and to reduce the likelihood that you will get triggered.

You’ll feel more resourceful and have more creativity about how to respond to the challenging situation you find yourself in.

Try this next time you have a difficult conversation with someone and notice the difference!