By: Susan Whalen, Chief Operations Officer

Resolving a disagreement with your co-worker, clarifying a misunderstanding with your manager—these are difficult conversations to have, and most people would rather avoid them. But by communicating clearly and listening well, you can have productive conversations with successful outcomes.

Most people struggle with clear communication; we can be concerned with hurting someone’s feelings, sending the wrong message, or personalizing the issue. People often imply what they want to say and fail to clearly state their objective(s). When the issue is implied, it leaves room for error and misinterpretation. Clear and direct communication is not rude or aggressive.

To be clear and concise when communicating, break down your conversation into three steps: (1) communicate your objective or issue, (2) state your expectation, and (3) ask why, how, or when?

Here’s an example of a clear conversation … “Sally, you have been late to work for the last three days (issue). In your position, it is expected that you start work on time at 8:00 a.m. (clear expectation). Is there a reason why you are unable to be at work on time (why)?”

Having a face-to-face conversation is critical when resolving an issue. Nonverbal cues are missed when emails or texting is used as the main form of communication. Body language, tone, and facial expressions often say more than words. Emails can be used afterwards to confirm your conversation.

The most important piece of communication is listening. Both parties need to understand the other’s point of view. Don’t assume you already know. If a person feels heard, you are more likely to resolve the issue. Once you clarify your issue, state your expectation, and then ask why, how, or what. This is when you listen. Listen to what they have to say, don’t be thinking of what you’re going to say next.  Try to understand their point of view.

If you are able to incorporate these steps in your next difficult conversation, you will experience a much more productive conversation with successful outcomes.  Try it … You may be surprised with what you learn. You may also enjoy conversations that were once difficult.