How to Mentally Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

Your colleague sent you a passive-aggressive email and you want to sit down and address it face to face. Or perhaps you’ve got some tough feedback you need to give to a coworker. Or maybe you’ve decided to discuss some growing tension on your team with your boss. When you’ve resolved to talk through a difficulty with a colleague, it’s tempting to have the conversation immediately. No better time than the present, right?

You’ll also want to think about the logistics (where and when you meet) and your strategy (how will you frame the problem and what you’ll say first). But getting ready emotionally is perhaps the most important work you need to do before you get into the room. Here are a few things you can go do to get ready.

Check your mindset. If you’re getting ready for a discussion you’ve labeled “difficult,” you may be feeling nervous, stressed, angry, or upset about it ahead of time. To minimize those negative emotions, try to think about it as a regular conversation and frame it in a positive way. For example, instead of giving a negative performance review, you’re having a constructive conversation about development. Or you’re not saying “no” to your boss; you’re offering up an alternative solution.

Amy Gallo