How Mature Are Your Tough Conversations?

Something’s wrong. Someone needs to speak up. As much as you’d prefer to avoid it, you can’t. That someone is you.

You know what needs to be said. But you’re not confident that how you say it will be well received. In fact, despite your best efforts, you might actually make the situation worse.

If you’ve ever felt this way, welcome to the conversational leadership party.

Like many aspects of leadership, it’s not what gets said that makes or breaks the situation, but how. Therein lies the challenge. It’s IQ vs. EQ. Rationale plus emotions. Results and relationships.

When it comes to difficult conversations, what we say matters. But how we say it will likely determine the success of the outcome. None of us were born with innate abilities to deliver tough messages. We start out immature by default. Hopefully we grow along the way.

Take a look below and compare some of the differences between mature and immature conversations:

Mature Immature
Respectful Insensitive
Prepared Impulsive
Patient Rushed
Adaptable Rigid
Concise Rambling
Seek to understand Seek to inform
Two-way communication One-way communication
Willing to compromise Unyielding
Based on fact Based on speculation
Solution-oriented Emotional offloading

Notice any trends? Mature conversations at their core have two elements: empathy and clarity. Empathy resolves issues in an understanding, collaborative manner with a willingness to see things from multiple angles. Clarity maintains focus on the issue at hand without letting the outside noise or inside emotions take over.

As you look over this list, isn’t the mature conversation significantly more desirable when compared to the immature counterpart? If you were the recipient of a tough conversation, not only would the issue be resolved, but the relationship would likely grow if the person doing the initiating were highly mature.

But that’s impossible!, you might think, remembering your  last conversation that went astray. Maybe today, but not forever. Every competent communicator began somewhere, remember?

Let’s start here.

  • Mature List – Take a good look at the mature list. Which item do you do best? In any given scenario, this is your most reliable ability. Identify it and own it. Plant a stake and build from there.
  • Immature List – Which item on the immature list gets you into trouble more consistently than the others? Start here! What’s one thing you can do to work on this one?

You can win at almost anything without being perfect – including difficult conversations – if you’ll play to your strengths while also eliminating your biggest pitfalls.

This article is included in the Leadership-in-a-Box® program:

Engaging in Difficult Conversations


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