For most of us, managing people is the most difficult part of our working lives. And managing difficult people is even more difficult! So, where to start?


Usually, tackling a problem by breaking it down into smaller chunks helps. In the case of managing difficult people, starting with a conversation can go a long way to improving a working relationship.


Instead of starting with what could be deemed the universally scary line “We need to talk”, here are four straightforward steps to having a chat with your difficult person.


4 steps to managing a difficult conversation

  1. Get clear on the issue


By getting clarity on what has happened, or maybe hasn’t happened, you’ll understand more about the impact and how you’ve got to this stage working with each other.


Sometimes we make assumptions about the other person’s intentions or take things personally, so write down some notes about what you’ve said and done that may be contributing to the situation.


  1. Be frank with yourself


After you’ve looked at this, be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling. Take a step back a little and get perspective. What is triggering your reaction? Consider what may be triggering theirs. Sometimes it helps to ask a third party what they observe.


  1. Think about the purpose


Now it’s time to ask yourself what you hope to achieve by having the conversation. Think about what you can realistically affect and then adjust your view to this standard.


  1. Plan the chat


Just like your school essays, create a plan that has a beginning, middle and end. Start by describing the situation as you see it, giving specific examples and being clear on how come it’s important. Then, make space for them to share their thoughts and air their grievances. Finally, plan how you can develop options in a way that involves them and gets clarity on the future.