If you are constantly feeling stressed out and angry because other people are letting you down it's time to do something about it. Most of us will do anything to avoid a difficult conversation. I think it's time suck it up and get tough.

How good are you at having those hard conversations? Will you let a situation continue, regardless of how much it is costing you financially and emotionally because you are afraid of confrontation? Rest assured you are not alone.

What I tended to do was wait till I was completely frustrated and then I would have a hissy fit and upset everyone, with nothing ever changing. I hated having hard conversations so denial became my go-to strategy and I would drive everyone crazy by whinging about the person or the situation.

I got sick and tired of this approach and I realized I needed a better approach. So I developed a simple five-step approach to handling any difficult conversation

  1. I commit to addressing an issue before I get angry and frustrated about it.
  2. I always stop and think about it from the other person's perspective - why are they acting in a certain way and how have I contributed to this?
  3. I get very clear about what I want them to do.  
  4. I let the person know I would like to have a discussion about something - so I don't broadside them and put them on the defensive.  
  5. I have the discussion, making sure I let the other person explain their position and I never, ever lose my cool.

This is a simple approach that really works. I've used this with suppliers who are not delivering on their promise, customers who are overstepping their mark or being rude and overly demanding, with staff that are not performing, with landlords who have stopped honouring a lease arrangement and many other difficult situations. And I've become much better at talking about money, often the most difficult of conversations.

What has the end result been? There have been many positive results. Firstly I feel much more confident in handling any situation. If I have lost a relationship as a result of having a hard conversation I quickly realized that it was a relationship that had run its course and needed to come to an end. And last but by no means least, I have a lot less stress in my life because I nip issues in the bud before I get seriously stressed and frustrated.  

If you struggle with having difficult conversations you really do need to toughen up. This doesn't mean you become a monster, it means you are able to have the difficult conversations that most people tend to avoid. Master this skill and a lot will change in your business and in your life.

Published on: Jan 11, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.