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2nd Apr, 2024

Lucy Buckland
Lucy Buckland
Job Title
Director of Learning & Development

Whether or not you’re a leader, harnessing the power of human connection is crucial in creating authentic, trusting relationships with those around us. So, what do we actually mean by human connection? Human connection encompasses several elements:

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of others

Active listening: truly hearing what someone is saying, without judgement.

Vulnerability: being open and honest, even when it feels uncomfortable

Inspiration and motivation: encouraging others to reach their full potential

If you’re in a leadership role, human connection is one of the most important skills to master. It can help improve team performance, as well as laying the foundation for challenging or difficult conversations.

If we know that difficult conversations are valuable, why do we avoid them?

Often, fear can hold us back from facing difficult conversations. We may worry that discussing sensitive issues will lead to disagreement or tension, or that our thoughts may be dismissed or misunderstood. I’ve written my top tips for navigating difficult conversations to help get you started:

Address the issue promptly: make time to have the conversation as soon as possible. Don’t save it for a more formal setting like a one-to-one. The longer the conversation is left, the more chance of diluting a message or allowing emotions to build.

Define your goals: make sure that you have spent some time getting clear on why you are having the conversation in the first place – what do you hope to achieve?

Choose the right setting: would the conversation be better had face to face or virtually? Would you benefit from having the conversation outside of the normal workplace environment?

Manage your emotions: sometimes, we can feel overwhelmed by a particular emotion, which can have an impact on how the message is delivered (and received). Take time to regulate your emotions, to ensure that your message is objective and balanced.

Use careful language: be precise and respectful with your words. Avoid blame or judgement. Focus on the issue in hand, without making it a personal attack.

Be kind to the person and tough on the topic: it’s important to remember to demonstrate empathy, approach the person with compassion and take time to actively listen and hear their point of view. When it comes to addressing the topic be crystal clear about the issue.

Stay solution-focused: once you have outlined the issue, spend time exploring potential solutions together, making sure to find a way forward.

Follow up: after the conversation, be sure to check in on progress. Have you achieved the outcome you were hoping for? Are there any lingering issues that need to be addressed?

I hope you are willing to take the first step in addressing the most important conversation you’re currently not having. One final question to consider if you’re still unsure – what’s the risk if you say or do nothing?

In my experience, ease goes hand in hand with practice and remember, if you do feel apprehensive or anxious before having a difficult conversation, it’s a good indication that you care, and that’s no bad thing, right?

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