How To Deliver Tough Messages

Delivering Tough Messages
My last article talked about the line between bullying and providing tough feedback.  I mentioned I am seeing an increase in the sensitivity related to receiving a tough message.  That said, we can also do a better job of delivering tough messages.  Here are some simple things you can do to deliver a tough message and reduce the risk of it causing offence.

1. Don’t be mean.

If you have been let down, this is not a time to get even.  Instead focus on how you can help the other person understand the situation and learn from it.  This may sound obvious but if you are angry, it’s not the right time to give the message.

2. Pick the right time for the conversation.

I recommend waiting until emotions have died down before having the conversation.  This doesn’t mean ignoring the situation.  Have a brief conversation explaining you wish to have a future conversation.  Explain the context for the conversation and agree a future time and place where it is more likely to be received positively.

3. Plan for how to have the conversation.

Most people’s tendency is to think they know what they are going to say and leave it at that.  I recommend you write down what conversation you want to have, why and what a good mutual outcome will be.  Practice starting the conversation and anticipate how they might respond.  Be ready.

4. Have the conversation.

Start by sharing the facts of what happened.  The facts should be clear to both parties.  Next focus on understanding the other person’s interpretation.  What did they see, what do they think happened?  By doing this you are much better prepared to share your side of the story.  Tell your side crisply and clearly, and finish by making your request.  Check what was heard by asking the other person to play it back to you.  Correct any misunderstandings.

5. Document THE Agreement.

Don’t leave the agreement to chance.  Get it in writing and check to ensure the other person agrees and supports the agreement.

Giving tough messages is difficult.  If you follow the above steps, you will be more likely to create a positive outcome.  I am very confident the outcome generated will be much better than avoiding the conversation.  These things typically get worse, much worse.

Having difficult conversations is one of the most difficult things a leader has to do. A lot rests on doing it well.  If there is sufficient interest, we will offer a workshop about how to have difficult conversations.  Please share your details below and we will contact you when we have more information about the workshop.