Difficult conversations are some of the most awkward, tense, tie-you-up-in-knots moments in people’s lives… both their personal and professional lives. In fact, there are thousands of books, articles and seminars on the topic of how to handle difficult conversations. One large training firm that provides professional workshops started offering a seminar titled ‘Dealing with Difficult People’, and it quickly became one of their most well-attended and lucrative programs. While it is not really a skill that anyone wants to be good at, most people understand that is an important skill for success.
The first step is to consider “Why is it a difficult conversation in the first place?” Sometimes, it’s because of the relationship between the parties such as a subordinate speaking to a supervisor. Sometimes it is because of the content of the conversation, such as communicating a criticism or pointing out a harsh truth. Sometimes it is because the person on either end of the talk is a difficult or hostile person. No matter the circumstances, there are strategies on how to handle even the most difficult conversation. Continue reading
The ability to start and maintain a conversation can be even more important to a person’s success in business than grades in school or college. In a study by Stanford University’s School of Business, students who had graduated with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) were contacted 10 years after they graduated to gauge their success. The study found that the grade point averages of graduates had no bearing on their success — but their ability to make conversation did. The most successful graduates were those who could make conversation with anyone — from acquaintances to business associates and from total strangers to good friends.
To many, starting and maintaining a conversation comes as naturally as breathing. But for others, the art of conversation is just that… an art form they can recognize and respect, but not replicate. For those who struggle to hold natural, engaged conversations, the gift of gab is viewed like unattainable talent such as Van Gogh’s ability to capture movement on canvas or Beethoven’s ability to evoke emotion through music…. beautiful and uplifting but not doable. However, for many in the business world, the ability to communicate fluidly and effortlessly is an invaluable skill. Is it possible for someone shy, tongue-tied or insecure to become a masterful conversationalist? It starts by understanding the three reasons for conversations and the five rules that make for good conversationalists.