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20-minute-manager-difficult-conversationsWhether confronting a colleague, giving feedback, or filing a complaint with management, finding the right words and methods to express oneself during a difficult conversation can be a challenge. And while most professionals might prefer avoiding any workplace confrontation, doing so often makes things worse. Harvard Business Review Press’s 20 Minute Manager: Difficult Conversations not only demonstrates the benefits of confronting contentious issues head-on but also provides a step-by-step guide to transforming interpersonal conflicts into productive dialogue. The book highlights the qualities and skills professionals need to become better communicators and examines how they can maintain positive relationships at work.

The book explains that in order to transform contentious conversations into highly constructive ones, professionals must:

  • Pinpoint the root of the problem. To resolve an interpersonal conflict with a productive conversation, a professional must first have a clear understanding of where the problem is stemming from.
  • Develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Only when professionals look within and empathize with how others are feeling can they calmly navigate difficult conversations.
  • Prepare for the conversation. To ensure that a difficult conversation goes smoothly, a professional must carefully plan what he or she is going to say and anticipate the different ways the conversation may unfold.
  • Stay calm and collected. Difficult conversations can easily become emotionally volatile; therefore, professionals must always try to maintain a calm, neutral tone and ignore any inflammatory language directed their way.
  • Reflect. To have consistently better and more productive future interactions, professionals must take a moment after the conclusion of each difficult conversation to identify what did and did not work.
  • Follow up on the conversation in writing. To fortify the positive outcome of a difficult conversation, a professional must quickly reiterate and reinforce what was agreed upon with the other party in an email.
  • Become better communicators. Effective communication does not just make difficult conversations easier, it can also help professionals’ self-esteem, improve workplace relationships, and mitigate conflict.

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