Difficult Conversations: 7 Warning Signs You are Afraid of Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations: 7 Warning Signs You are Afraid of Difficult Conversations

Are you afraid of have that difficult conversation? You know, the one where you have to deliver bad news or confront someone who you feel has betrayed you, you have to take someone off a project or fire them or reprimand them, or asking for a raise or telling your boss you missed a deadline, telling someone they have bad hygiene, rejecting an offer, nothing to contribute to a brainstorming meeting, arguing over territory/jurisdiction, or a “that’s not my job description” conversation.

If these examples make you cringe, then you are afraid of having a difficult conversation. You are “conflict averse”.

But, here’s the bad news about being conflict averse: avoiding conflict always makes things worse. Disagreement fester and stew and brew until they boil over or explode or just make a mess everywhere. Disagreements lead to losing everything, getting fired, lawsuits, blah blah. You can see where they lead.

If you avoid difficult conversations, you also avoid the chance to get what you want or need. So it’s in your interest to get over your fear of conflict. Step one is to learn the warning signs that you are conflict averse.


The Top 7 Warning Signs You Are Afraid of Conflict (Conflict Averse)

  1. You avoid problems and hope they will get better by themselves

  2. You are afraid of being challenged about your point of view

  3. You are afraid of negative reactions to your ideas or comments

  4. You are more afraid of being disliked than telling the truth

  5. You apologize before, during and after every possible conflict

  6. You are afraid you will hurt someone if you give feedback that is critical

  7. You think that all differences of opinion are conflicts

6 Ways to Stop Being an Avoider and Gain Conversation Confidence

So how do you stop being “conflict-averse?”

Being confident about having a difficult conversation is a state of mind. To stop being an  avoider, here are attitudes to adopt that will help you gain the confidence to handle most difficult conversations.

Believe that there’s nothing wrong with conflict. People who thrive in difficult conversations understand that it is okay if someone is angry with you or disagrees with your point of view. They understand that negative reactions are not necessarily personal or deadly but simply a different point of view about a situation

Know that not all difficult conversations involve conflict. Sometimes when the relevant issues are brought up, it boils down to a misunderstanding or a simple adjustment. The fear of the conversation many times ends up being scarier than the conversation itself.

Keep an open “neutral” mind. You don’t have to give up your point of view to listen to other people’s perspectives on a situation or problem. Being willing to listen means that you can live with differences of opinion about the same issue. And most of all, keeping an open mind means a difficult conversation does not have to be about hurting others but about talking and listening.

Realize that the road to solution must often go through a difficult conversation first. Like most people, you feel empowered and confident when you can solve a problem. You understand that problems won’t resolve themselves, so it is up to you have to step up and have the difficult conversation. Confident people believe that most conflicts can be resolved even if they don’t resolve in the way they anticipated or planned.


Workplace Conflict: How to Handle Difficult Conversations

For more on handling difficult conversations, read my new ebook, “Stop Arguing & Start Working: 6 Steps to Being Confident, Calm and Capable During Difficult Conversations At Work.” The book is available now.

For updates on my book, tips on how to deal with workplace conflict and bullying behaviors, exclusive content, and detailed reports, sign up for my free newsletter.

I’ve been a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, Conflict Consultant.