Some conversations are just hard to have. We ask three experts how you can have them without things getting awkward (or nasty).
YOU DISAGREE WITH YOUR BOSS AND WANT TO VOICE YOUR OPINION
Struggle with this a lot? Don’t feel bad—it’s not uncommon.
“Openly disagreeing with your boss is one of the hardest things to do in a professional setting,” says Kristina Lee, a business support consultant at Robert Walters Singapore. She points out that disagreements are typically over salary, work-life balance, promotions and micromanagement. Whatever the issue, you should learn how to manage a tough conversation with your superior.
“The discussion needs to be constructive, logical and non-condescending. Also, focus on the outcome to demonstrate your drive and desire to be successful in your role [without causing further problems],” she adds.
Here are four steps to guide you.
Focus on positives
“If the conversation is about a salary increment, frame the conversation around your achievements.”
Calmly explain why you disagree and ask questions, such as “Why did my colleague get a promotion when I am performing equally well?” and “What do I need to achieve to earn a promotion?” to clarify the issue.
Give yourself some time to think about what was said, and suggest solutions to overcome the problem. “Pausing during difficult conversations lets you gather your thoughts and acknowledge what your boss is telling you. It will also allow you to come up with a plan you can take to achieve your goals,” she says.
Talk about what’s next
“Think about the position you want, and how it aligns with the objectives of your organisation and manager. Ask your boss for feedback regularly so you know what you need to do to reach the next level,” says Kristina.
YOU RUN INTO SOMEONE YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IN YEARS AND DON’T HAVE MUCH TO SAY
Not acknowledging someone you used to know can be rather rude—but it can also be hard to continue the conversation when you haven’t spoken to that person in years. Melisah Ng, an associate etiquette trainer at Etiquette and Image International, recommends building the conversation around common ground.
“For example, if you share a mutual friend, you can make the topic about them,” she says. “Just remember to be polite and cheerful.”
To bring the conversation to an end, simply make up an excuse.
“Tell them nicely that you need to get on your way to meet a friend, or that you need to continue running your errands,” she adds. “And end off with pleasantries like, ‘It was lovely seeing you again!’”
Worried that you’ll awkwardly walk in the same direction as them after saying goodbye? Melisah has a tip: ask where they’re going so you can head the opposite way. You can always make a detour if that’s where you need to go too.
YOU WANT TO STOP SEEING SOMEONE YOU’VE BEEN DATING FOR A SHORT WHILE
So you’ve concluded that he just isn’t what you’re looking for. It happens, and you shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to call things off.
“It’s a good thing if you decide to end a relationship if you find the both of you are incompatible. This shows you know yourself well,” says Jean Chen XM, a psychotherapist at Relationship Matters.
That said, rejecting someone is never easy, and you should break the news as gently as possible. Jean tells you how:
Tell him you want to talk to him about something important. This should be done a few days beforehand—it gives him a hint of what you might say and allows him time to prepare an appropriate response.
Talk in person
“At the end of the day, the both of you spent time and effort to be there for each other for a period of time. You may be discounting those efforts if you were to have the conversation over the phone or through a text,” says Jean.
Bring up the things you appreciate about him, and acknowledge all the good he has done for you.
Tell him why
“Explain why you feel things aren’t working out with ‘I’ statements, not ‘you’ statements, or you might sound like you’re blaming him. For example, ‘I wish to move on because I feel that I don’t really get to hear your thoughts, and that makes me feel empty.’”
Listen to what he has to say and give him time to let what’s happening sink in.
Be apologetic about hurting him and end things on a good note. “You can say something like, ‘I’m sorry this is difficult to accept. I will remember you as someone who was nice to me and who has a strong sense of responsibility.’”
“REJECTING SOMEONE IS NEVER EASY, AND YOU SHOULD BREAK THE NEWS AS GENTLY AS POSSIBLE.”
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