Agreeing to Disagree: How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Peers
In a perfect world, everybody would get along wonderfully and there would be no disagreements between coworkers. We all know such expectations are unrealistic, of course. That doesn’t mean you can’t resolve disputes courteously. When it’s necessary to have difficult conversations with your peers, there are strategies you can follow that promise positive results.
Tips for Handling Difficult Situations
The health care industry is no different than others when it comes to working relationships. From time to time, people are going to butt heads. Top health care leaders across the United States have tips on diffusing confrontational situations and having difficult conversations with peers when necessary. Their input includes the following:
- Remain calm and professional. It helps to operate under the assumption that the person with whom you disagree did not have bad intentions. Often, simple misunderstandings get blown out of proportion. Always give the other party the benefit of the doubt.
- Deal with the situation in a timely manner. Address the problem immediately rather than letting it fester. Few people enjoy confrontation, but procrastination is never an effective tactic. Postponing an important talk only makes the problem worse.
- Be as specific as possible with your concerns. Come prepared not only with examples of issues you are having, but with ideas to rectify the problem, as well.
- Speak with others first to ensure your interpretation of the situation isn’t overblown. Sometimes, problems seem bigger than they really are, and can appear gargantuan in our minds. Eliciting feedback from other coworkers will help assure you that the situation is (or is not) as black-and-white as it appears.
- Make sure you allot plenty of time for the conversation. Rushing through your concerns with one eye on the clock sends the wrong message; you’ll need an opportunity to sit down with the other person and discuss, in detail, the nature of the problem. Allow the other individual to share his/her side of the story, as well. The goal is to find common ground, which often takes a bit of time.
- Listen more and talk less. Obviously, you’ll want to raise your concerns initially, but let the other person tell their story, and resist the urge to interrupt. A willingness to listen demonstrates a desire to understand the other person’s intentions and find a resolution. Keep in mind that as difficult as the conversation is for you, it’s just as bad – if not worse – for your peer.
- Be willing to forgive and forget. A gentle approach to the conversation will help set the tone. Often, there are extenuating circumstances in the other person’s life that may be affecting their performance or behavior. Remember that we all have personal issues and be willing to compromise if there is a valid reason.