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  • Writer's pictureKenneth E. Fields

Even in the middle of a crisis, don't be scared of hard conversations!

During the COVID-19 crisis, many of us are having some difficult conversations. Missed sales targets, furloughs, layoffs... all very challenging topics.

In our recent session on Hard Conversations and Candor with the Furman Office for Innovation and Entreprenuership, we focused several keys to navigating those conversations we don't really want to have.

First, it's important to start from a foundation of trust. If you've taken time to engage and really know the person you're talking to, they will be aware that you care about them beyond the incident or immediate event. Don't have that foundation? Start building it today by finding out how COVID-19 has impacted that person's health and family, not just their work

Second, have empathy for the person you're talking with. Empathy might sound like a nebulous concept but it's just the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. As we can see from social media, people are struggling with different emotions and realities during this time. To help you understand those perspectives, ask! Start by asking about the hopes and concerns that people have (and check out this great video from Dr. Aaron Simmons).

Finally, be direct. Provide a clear concise representation of the facts (or your viewpoint) delivered in a way that is “wrapped” in trust and empathy. Being indirect or beating around the bush will NOT pay off. As Brene Brown says, "Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind".

If you need to have a hard conversation today, then have the courage to be tactfully direct. If you're fortunate enough to not need to have one, then start laying foundations for trust and empathy with your team. It will be an investment that pays off!

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