Why Communication Is a Key Factor in Managing Difficult Conversations

Strong communication skills are essential for managing conversations effectively, whether that be through powerful questioning, the art of listening, using empathy or nonverbal codes such as body language. The ability to act responsibly and be accountable for decisions is also a key factor in mitigating conflict. 

Think back to the last time you faced a difficult conversation; how did it go? If you felt out of your comfort zone having to talk about issues or problems, or anxiety at potentially facing a confrontation, then you are not alone. These feelings are a natural response to being presented with a challenging situation, especially if you do not feel prepared to deal with it.  One of the key skills needed to manage a difficult conversation is communication.

Strong communication skills are essential for managing conversations effectively, whether that be through powerful questioning, the art of listening, using empathy or nonverbal codes such as body language. The ability to act responsibly and be accountable for decisions is also a key factor in mitigating conflict. Often people fear conflict, but if we begin to see conflict as something not to be feared, and instead embraced as a tool to move forward, then this can bring about positive change. In order to achieve this, staff must feel supported and receive practical training.

If you have a role where you are expected to be a ‘translator’ who sits between the business and IT,  for example, BRM, Service Level Manager, BA, Scrum Master, Team Leader, PM,  you will need to navigate language that can be often seen as tribal or superficial, for example, phrasing around ITIL and Agile, (For example, “you don’t implement ITIL” – as it is more of a practice than a process) and this can make communication and understanding harder, which can lead to confusion and frustration. 

 

New team members can be slower to make progress if they are worried about saying the wrong thing or are shamed for making a mistake, and this can lead to lower efficiency and morale.

Being able to interpret the business from different perspectives and translate that knowledge to team members, stakeholders and partners and potentially put our fires or manage conflicts can be the difference between successful or failure. So, there is a need for trained professionals who are confident in dealing with difficult situations both internally and externally and translate information effectively to customers.

Another issue when managing issues and conflict can be the communication structures within an organization. You may work in a private or shared office, split your time between office and home, or work remotely. Increasingly, face to face conversations that happen organically in the office are being replaced by apps such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype etc. Apps can be very useful tools for tracking and communication but if someone isn’t a self-starter or confident enough to raise an issue then they might feel overwhelmed, confused and out of their depth, and this can go unnoticed.

Issues such as these can be managed by having a good strategy in place that includes regular stand ups, virtual meetings, meeting up in person regularly and implementing a mentor programme. Maintaining good communication channels not only means that staff feel well supported, and the organization can see how their talent is progressing, but remote working staff are also able to develop increased autonomy, efficiency and less burnout.

 

Ineffectively managed conflict is costing organizations in terms of lost days and revenue. However, if conflict is harnessed correctly it can stimulate progress and rewards for individuals, teams and organizations. Soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 (Deloitte Access Economics) 

Therefore there has never been more demand for skills such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration, adaptability. Organizations that value and promote these through awareness and training will stay ahead of the game.

 

It’s important for IT professionals to develop and maintain both the soft and technical skills that will enable them to stay ahead of the curve, by using lifelong learning and drawing upon mentors and role models as they progress in their career.

But it’s also important for businesses to train their staff and draw from their existing pool, investing in people who will benefit their organization, or risk losing them. eLearning can be a useful learning tool on the path to becoming a T shaped professional, or a professional who has a deep knowledge of their subject and also a broad range of skills to support their development, as it can easily fit around busy life and work schedules, allowing you to work at your own place, whilst drawing on support from industry professionals and mentors as you study.

Ka​​​t Turner is ITSM ZONE education expert, with 12 years’ experience in writing and validating courses. Kat is responsible for course production, and ensuring ITSM ZONE courses are forward facing and meet the needs of our customers.

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