How to have difficult conversations during the Covid-19 crisis
The coronavirus pandemic means most of us are having to tackle more ‘challenging’ conversations than usual.
Whether you’re dealing with cancellations and postponements or having to renegotiate contracts, it’s important to manage the situation sensitively.
Everyone’s having a tough time and it’s not their fault. So you need to listen to their point of view and show empathy.
But remember it’s not your fault either – you need to protect both yourself and your business.
It can take practice to achieve this balance, especially if you’re communicating via phone or video conference rather than in person. But once you’ve got the knack you’re more likely to achieve a positive outcome – and maintain good relationships.
Alex Palmer, Kina Events founder, finds managing your own view of the conversation from the outset can help.
“Try not to label the conversation as ‘difficult’ in your own mind,” she says. “Instead, try to think of it in a neutral – or even a positive – way. At the end of the day, it’s your opportunity to solve a problem or do the right thing for your business.
“You might be assuming that the other person won’t take things well. But if you’re sensitive and listen, you’ll probably discover that – while it’s still not the best ever news for them – it’s not unexpected.”
It’s also a good idea to plan what you want to say, but don’t write a script for the whole conversation. You’ll need to listen carefully to what others say and adapt accordingly.
Attentive, active listening is very important. It will help you clarify problems and validate any emotions you might hear. Always repeat back what others have said to check you have understood their point of view, and never judge.
Slowing the pace of the conversation can help you listen more carefully and give you time to think about what to say next. Also, try to suggest possible solutions and encourage others to do the same, focussing on positive ideas rather than negativity.
Alex says: “Listening and making it a two-way conversation is vital. But don’t forget to say what you need to – after all, that’s the whole point of the conversation.
“When you’re wrapping things up, say thank you and, if you can, show your appreciation by offering something back. For example, a positive recommendation can go a long way towards preserving business relationships.
“Most of all, reflect on how the conversation went and learn from it. Then you’ll do an even better job next time.”
Kina Events provides a fully-customised mentoring programme to help support events professionals at any stage of their career. There’s lots of information about it on our website or you can send us an email to find out more.