Whether it is an interview or a performance review, work conversations can be stressful. With some preparation, perspective and confidence, you can feel more in control. Here are five tips to help you smoothly navigate a stressful conversation:
1. Identify a few points before the discussion.
If you are in the midst of a tough conversation, it can be difficult to remember or clearly articulate what you want or had planned to say. You don’t want to have regrets after the conversation is over and think to yourself, “I wish I had brought that point up.”
Before the conversation begins, write down the two or three key points you want to communicate to the other person. If you become flustered, look at the points you wrote on the paper. Those key words or phrases will help you to recall what you want to say and how you want to say it.
2. Mention, briefly, something off topic at the beginning.
“Small talk” can be a great technique to start a conversation and ease the seriousness of work conversations. Give the parties involved an opportunity to temporarily take their mind off of work to feel more at ease.
3. Write down the entire question.
If you are in a stressful situation like an interview or a performance review, your mind may wander. If you are not focused, you run the risk of not accurately hearing a question or responding to a question in full. If the question has multiple parts, write down each aspect of the question. When you respond, you can check off the elements of the question that you have answered and ensure you answer thoroughly.
4. Ask the person to repeat or clarify.
Don’t hesitate to ask the person to restate the question or prompt. If you are unclear about what the other person is saying or asking, repeat back to the person what you are hearing and ask if that is accurate. Miscommunication only adds stress to a situation.
5. Remind yourself that you have just as much value as the other person.
There may be times when you feel that the other person has power over you, whether that is because of their title or age. Remember that every individual is important. Every person has value. Have the self-respect to recognize your value so that you are not bullied.
Just as important as it is to be able to stand your ground, it is equally important to be vulnerable. When the parties to the conversation have equal value, this means that you have to be open to other people’s ideas. When you demonstrate respect for yourself and the other person, you will leave the conversation empowered and with an improved relationship.
You can decrease the amount of stress stemming from challenging conversations. Identify in advance some points, engage in small talk, take notes, seek clarification and believe in your value.