CNBC: Simon Sinek: ‘The skill of having an uncomfortable conversation is essential’—this hack can make it easier - Michelle Gibbings

In this article for CNBC, Michelle was invited to add her comments about uncomfortable conversations. 

Uncomfortable conversations are inevitable — and that’s why learning to navigate them is necessary for building healthy relationships and a successful career.

Maybe you need to offer a friend or colleague some constructive criticism, or you’ve been called into a meeting with your boss to discuss a work project that went south. These conversations may be nerve-wracking, but learning to confront them head-on — and with the right amount of tact — can help turn an uncomfortable situation into a positive.

That’s according to bestselling author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, who recently shared his tips for handling difficult conversations in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

“As human beings, we actually have to work very hard to be human, and one of those human skills that we need to practice is how to have uncomfortable conversations,” Sinek said in the video. “Being uncomfortable is part of being human.”

There are several factors that can make a conversation tricky to navigate, such as differing opinions, social anxiety, tension or concern about the outcome. No matter the cause, Sinek says “avoidance” won’t solve the problem.

“There are many ways to respond to that discomfort. We can run away from it,” he said. But, that’s not the best option, because avoiding an uncomfortable situation “just perpetuates the discomfort or breaks relationships,” according to Sinek.

“The better way to deal with it is to lean into the tension,” he said.

Leaning into tension doesn’t mean becoming hostile or argumentative — that furthers the risk of “destroying” the relationship, he adds. Rather, acknowledge the discomfort at the beginning of the conversation, which allows the other person to mentally prepare for it.

“I just had [a difficult conversation] recently with a friend and it went like this: ‘I need to have an uncomfortable conversation with you.’ By stating what’s about to happen, it lets the person take a deep breath and know what’s about to happen,” Sinek said. “It also lets them be prepared and be a little less defensive.”

You can also preface the conversation by asking for permission first, or trying out some helpful phrases, he adds:

  • “Please be patient with me as I try to get this out.”
  • “It’s important to me that I have this conversation with you.”
  • “I’m afraid that I’ll say the wrong thing, so please bear with me.”

This can make it easier to address the other person, and allows them to decide whether or not this is a good time for the conversation to take place.

Mastering your approach to difficult conversations may take a while, but it’s a critical skill for your personal — and professional — success, according to workplace expert and author Michelle Gibbings.

“Uncomfortable conversations aren’t fun … However, stepping into them is an essential ingredient for effective leadership and a hallmark of a successful career,” Gibbings wrote in a recent article for CEOWorld Magazine. “By having an open conversation, being transparent with the other person about the value you place on the relationship and understanding their intent and background,” you open yourself to deeper, stronger connections in life and at work.

“The skill of having an uncomfortable conversation is essential,” Sinek said. “And the way you’re going to practice them is by actually having them.”

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