Skip to main content

How to successfully tackle tough conversations at work

Conflict resolution in the workplace is difficult. Whether it’s negotiating a raise, condemning someone’s poor behavior, or firing an employee, tough conversations are just a part of working with others. These hard conversations will never be easy, but there are practicable skills you can use to make them more bearable, ultimately creating a productive and positive dialogue.

Woman talking at work
Christina @

Have the right mindset

Setting your intentions before going into the meeting can go a long way. If you’ve already decided the discussion will be difficult, you will be more likely to dread it, letting your nerves take over. Nerves can cause you to act more combative during the discussion or, on the other hand, act too passive and not advocate for yourself fully.

Instead, stay positive and focus on what you want to say and how you want to say it. After all, the only things you can control are your own actions.

Plan what you’re going to say

If you’re tackling a sensitive topic in the workplace, take time to think about and plan what you are going to say and consider how the other person may react. Predict some questions or concerns they may raise so you’re prepared with well thought out answers. When you feel prepared, it’s easier to stay calm and not let the stress of the situation affect you.

Additionally, whether you’re asking for something or offering a critique, focus on the outcome you’d like to see going forward instead of harping on mistakes of the past. With this strategy, they will see things from your perspective and are left knowing that you’ve invested in their improvement and growth.

Woman talking to her boss
Sora Shimazaki/Pexels

Be specific and direct

Stay away from work small talk, especially before a difficult conversation. Both yourself and the person you’re speaking with are likely nervous, and small talk prolongs this nervousness. It’s best to be direct and make your point quickly. Obviously, it’s important to stay friendly with the initial “Hello, how are you,” but try not to dive into any side conversations.

Further, remember to be specific in your request or criticism. Use concrete examples to help the other person understand why you are having this chat, and be honest and detailed with your feedback. The more you can help them understand the reason for the conversation, the more likely they will be to receive it well. Further, with concrete examples of what to do and what not to do, you both leave the conversation on the same page and with actionable goals.

Recognize your colleague’s perspective and suggest a solution

Try to see things from your colleague’s perspective, and be empathetic. Ask yourself what the problem is and what, if anything, the other person thinks is the problem. If you aren’t sure how they feel, acknowledge that and ask them. This shows that you care and want to understand how they feel. Your side is only, at most, half of the story, so don’t forget to allow your counterpart to ask questions and provide feedback on your behavior as well. Actively listen to what they’re saying, treating them with the same respect that you expect for yourself.

Tough talks are (unfortunately) just a part of life. While they may be painful, they help us address serious problems and provide a more positive path moving forward that may not exist without these frank discussions. Just because the result is often positive, that doesn’t make these chats any easier to have. It’s okay to still be nervous going in. However, with the tips above, you can mediate these difficult workplace conversations with confidence, compassion, and positivity.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

Editors' Recommendations

Shannon Cooper
Freelance writer
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
Thoughtful baby shower gifts for that special new mom to be
A pregnant woman in a red dress cradling her belly.

Diapers and strollers and bottles, oh my! Preparing to welcome a new baby into the family can be one of the most exciting, joyous times in life. From choosing Baby’s name and deciding what color to paint the nursery, to doctor’s visits and prenatal vitamins there’s just so much to do! That’s where the baby shower comes in! Not only does it allow family and friends to oogle over that glorious growing belly, but it also helps to provide many of the items necessary to care for a newborn. We’ve put together a list of thoughtful baby shower items for the new mom-to-be including some things to make pregnancy easier and more comfortable for her and some items to help care for that new bundle of joy. While darling little onesies and soft cuddly blankets are always welcome gifts, these items are a little less conventional and things mom will reach for time and time again.

From the moment that pregnancy test reads positive, indescribable emotions come flooding in and remain until that precious bundle is safe in mom’s arms. Oh, who are we kidding? Those emotions last forever. There will always be worry about feeding and diaper changing and vaccinations and first words and … the list goes on and on. For now, though, these thoughtful items are sure to delight that expectant momma and make this special time feel a little less overwhelming.

Read more
Tips for a fun and flirty Valentine’s Day
Happy Valentine's Day decorations on a table

When you think of Valentine’s Day, your first thought may be of those little candy hearts, a dozen roses, or maybe the classic heart-shaped box of chocolates. Yawn, right? Spice up your V-day with these fresh new takes on the sweetest holiday of them all. Whether it’s with a glamorous night out or a cozy evening in, Valentine’s day is all about doing something a little special for your special someone, or even treating yourself to some luxury and pampering. Take a look at these ideas to help make the 14th especially memorable.

Whether you're creating a funny handmade card for your gal-entine, treating yourself to an ultra-relaxing night in, or surprising your significant other with something saucy, Valentine's Day is a lovely reminder to show the people in our lives a little something special to show you care. The gesture we you make can be as simple and timeless as lighting a candle, or as extravagant and grand as silk pillowcases. Doing a little something extra on Valentine's will create warm memories of love for years to come- or possibly a spicy thrill.

Read more
5 fantastic products for a foodie-centric, at-home date night
virtual date ideas social distancing woman cooking

Going to a local restaurant or bar for a dinner-date night or late night is a fun way to spend time with your S.O. However, sometimes, you may crave something a bit more intimate.
Move the restaurant, bar, and even beer-brewing process to your home. Cooking and making drinks together requires you to work as a team, strengthening your bond. Plus, it’s fun to toast to something with something you made yourselves. To step your home date-night games up, you’ll want to invest in some practical and fun products. These items will help you serve up a romantic and delicious evening with the one you love.

Moving date night to your kitchen and living room may sound boring at face value, but it presents endless ways to enhance your bond. Making a meal together can be memorable and delicious. You’ll work together as a team and aren’t limited to food prep. These days, you can even make your own drinks, including beer, soda, and cocktails. You’ll want to have bottles to put your beverage in and a bartender kit to craft specialty cocktails, such as the signature drink from your wedding. Make sure you have a study cutting board so you can slice and dice like a chef and tools to make sweet treats, like a pastry cutter. Finally, place some candles on the table to up the romance.

Read more