Conducting difficult conversations is never fun. However,expert Kevin Eikenberry says you can make them less unbearable—and ensure a better outcome—if you ask yourself these questions beforehand:
What is my goal? What do you want to have happen as a result of the conversation? If you don’t have a goal, you aren’t ready to talk yet.
Should I discuss this right now? Are you in the right frame of mind? Do you have all the information you need? If you answer “No” to either, calm yourself down and gather the information.
How does the other person view this situation? It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your co-workers or employees. Will they likely be surprised by your feedback or see it coming?
What information am I missing? What questions do you need to ask the other person to ensure that you aren’t jumping to conclusions or making assumptions? What do you need to clarify? Before you address any problems, you first need to ensure that you have all the details.
What role did I play in the situation? As a co-worker, could your actions have been misinterpreted? As a leader, could you have done something to prevent a behavioral problem or performance slip? If you are somehow to blame, it’s important to apologize and state what you will do differently going forward.
What are some solutions? Figure out what you want the person to do (or you to do) differently going forward. During the conversation, make sure you also ask the person to share their own ideas for resolving the issue. Then agree on a plan.
— Adapted from “Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before You have a Difficult Conversation,” Kevin Eikenberry, http://blog.kevineikenberry.com.