Need to Have a Difficult Conversation with a Colleague? Here’s How.

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As much as we all wish work could be a constant stream of butterflies, puppies and rainbows, that's simply not reality. No matter how much you love your job, differences with co-workers are bound to arise.

But that doesn't mean you couldn't approach the situation with grace and come out stronger on the other side. Follow these tips for success.

Take time to think things over.
Don't go into a conversation with guns blazing. Chances are, you're going to feel a bit differently about the situation in a few minutes, hours or days. Allow time for emotions to settle and mull over how to best approach the situation. This could even include writing a list of items, to articulate your thoughts in a clear way.


Have empathy.
Everyone has something going on in their lives—whether it's stress in a relationship, anxiety over a health concern or otherwise. Remind yourself: Not everything should be taken personally. Times could be tough and we're all simply trying to get by.


Consider timing.
Don't choose the first thing Monday morning to have a difficult chat. Instead, propose a specific time to speak, so both parties have set aside the appropriate amount of time fitting their schedule. You have a better chance of working things out if you're both able to focus on the issue at hand.


Be honest and LISTEN.
Don't expect progress to be made if you're only interested in sharing your side of the story. During the conversation, be sure you're actually listening to your colleague, rather than already thinking about what you're going to say next. Don't interrupt and be willing to accept any constructive criticism that may come your way. Growth is the goal!


Use the disagreement as an opportunity to build trust.
Think about how this difficult conversation or disagreement could propel your working relationship forward. How could each of your strengths play off one another in the future, rather than conflict? Identifying what may have caused the disagreement in the first place could help prevent another issue from popping up.


Remember: You don't have to walk away as best friends. By addressing things openly and calmly, you're creating room for change and an experience to draw from in future stressful work situations. It might be awkward but trust us: You've got this.


Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.

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