Have something hard to say, but are afraid you’ll upset someone? You are not alone. I hear this concern all the time. Avoiding difficult conversations is almost human nature.
The people you work with want to work with other human beings. And part of being human is expressing how you feel. That takes courage and authenticity.
Saying how you feel and being willing to be vulnerable are signs of strength. Vulnerability and authenticity help other people see you as human, and make people feel closer to you. People want to work with other human beings, not people devoid of emotion who never show their cards.
If you’re nervous, say you’re nervous. If you’re afraid you’ll negatively impact your relationship by speaking up, say so. If you’re not sure it’s your place to raise an issue, say that. You won’t lose anything by stating your concerns. You only stand to gain.
Showing that you care is the first step. Expressing your interest in helping the company or individual succeed is a great place to start.
Consider starting difficult conversations like this:
Option one: “I’m not sure it’s my place to talk about our client satisfaction survey results, but I care about our reputation and have a few thoughts. Is it ok if I talk about them with you?”
Option two: “I’ve got some input for you that I’ve been hesitant to share, but I think the information could be helpful to you. I care about you and your career, and I want you to be successful. Is it ok if I share my thoughts?”
Option three: “I’ve got a few things to talk with you about, but haven’t brought them up because I’m a bit concerned about how you’ll react. Is it ok if I share them with you? I’m saying these things because I care about our team, and I have some ideas we can try, for better results.”
You probably noticed that in the examples above, I stated that I was concerned about speaking up, asked for permission to do so, and stated the reason I wanted to provide input. Your motive for having difficult conversations is very important. When people trust your motives, and believe that you have their best interests at heart, they will listen.
Don’t be afraid to say how you feel. If you’re afraid to speak up, saying so won’t reduce your credibility, it will likely increase it. State your concerns, explain yourself, and ask for permission to give feedback. Doing those three things will help any message be well received and is likely to make it easier for you to say what you want to say.