Psychological health

5 Dysfunctional Conversation Types When Delivering Bad News

Have you ever let emotion get the best of you in a difficult conversation?

How to stay calm.

One of the biggest challenges a manager faces is delivering bad news. For many managers – especially new or junior managers – the experience of delivering bad news, during a layoff conversation or even a negative performance review – can be surprisingly emotional. People can feel sympathy for the victim.

They can feel confused or even frustrated or angry at the fact that they have to get the message across in the first place, especially if it’s a message they didn’t necessarily endorse in the first place. They can feel nervous — sometimes very stressed — about doing something they know will cause pain and discomfort to another human being.

Along with my colleague Joshua Margulis, I’ve studied these conversations for many years, and one of the things we’ve discovered in this work is that when managers fail to keep their emotions in check when delivering bad news, they can fall prey to five different types of dysfunctional conversations. .

1. Dysfunctional Conversation #1: Bargaining

This is when you allow the conversation to become a file negotiate While it can’t really be one. When employees receive negative news, it is natural to engage in what one manager in our research study called “but why?” Conversation – – “But why do you have to do this?” … “But why is this necessary?” …

“But why should it be me?” But assuming this is a message you really have to communicate, you as a manager can’t fall into the trap of a “but why” conversation. You certainly can – and should be – sympathetic to your receipt, but you can’t get away from your message.

Read 7 ways to deal with difficult conversations

2. Dysfunctional Conversation #2: Cushioning

You may have seen or heard an example of someone breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend and being very indirect and extroverted about the message that the person in question doesn’t actually understand that they were abandoned!

This is cushioning: where, as someone who sends a negative message, you soften the blow, but in doing so, you actually end up confusing the other person because they have no idea what you’re saying. You’d think this might be uncommon in the corporate world, but it’s not. In one organization we studied, managers were asked to mention termination within the first 10 seconds of a meeting in order to protect against this specific type of dysfunctional conversation.

Read 7 Conversational Ways That Will Help You Get Rid Of Anyone

3. Dysfunctional Conversation #3: Discharge

With discharge, the person conveying the message cannot control his or her feelings. And they unload: they deliver the message in a quick, panicked fashion – freeing themselves from the emotional burden they were carrying and unloading on the victim. And as you can imagine, the message that is being delivered is often less than the dignity and sensitivity of dealing with people.

Read 3 tips for creating conversations worth having in your workplace

4. Dysfunctional Conversation #4: Arguing

Sometimes people who receive negative news feel that it is unfair. They want to resist and argue. And as a person getting the message across, you can’t let that happen. You need to control yourself in a way that defuses a potential conflict rather than fanning the fire.

For example, one company we worked with asked managers to: (a) listen, (b) let employees vent, but then rephrase their message again clearly and succinctly. It can seem impersonal, but such a method avoids controversy and actually enables you to get the message across that you were going to send.

Read 11 conversation killers to avoid at all costs

5. Dysfunctional Conversation #5: Mechanization

Finally, the fifth and final type of dysfunctional conversation is mechanization — again, you allow emotion to get the best of you, but instead of arguing, you break up.

You are at a distance. You go “automated,” and deliver the message in a choppy, confusing fashion, just like other types of dysfunctional conversations are hardly respectful, albeit for different reasons.

None of us want to fail to deliver bad news. But unless we learn to control our emotions and recognize these types of dysfunctional conversations, we are unlikely to be able to treat our message recipients with the dignity they deserve.

Have you ever let emotion get the best of you in a difficult conversation?


Written by: Andy Molinsky 
Originally appeared on: Thrive Global
Republished with permission.

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