While some people may be better at dealing with conflict than others, no one really enjoys uncomfortable or challenging conversations. From break-ups to firings and everything in between, here are three reasons you need to run toward, not away from, difficult conversations now:
1. Avoidance causes increased internal distress. Not speaking about problems rarely makes situations go away, but often results in increased stress and unhapinness. Stress causes all kinds of problems, from bad sleep to a short temper with others around you. That incongruity between how you're feeling inside and your not doing or saying something about it will cause internal distress. While having difficult conversations can feel and be challenging, the anxiety of uncertainty leading up to those conversations is often times worse than the actual confrontation itself. Avoid subjecting yourself to undue stress and internal conflict by talking to others about how your feel sooner rather than later.
2. Frustration often leads to emotional outbursts. Everyone has a boiling point. Harboring resentment that isn’t properly addressed will lead to an emotional outburst that will be counterproductive. The person whose behavior you’ve been irritated by up to this point has had no idea you are angry or annoyed. As a result of your outburst, they will likely feel hurt, bitter and confused. By addressing problems head-on, you will have clear and actionable items that you can use to resolve your problem or begin a termination later down the line, avoiding confusion. They will understand along the way what exactly the offending behavior is and what the expectations are moving forward to alter it.
Most people are reasonable and will happily make changes. Those who aren’t will at least understand why the relationship is being severed and not be caught off guard. Define expectations and hold others accountable. It will mean some uncomfortable conversations, but it's far better to have all your cards on the table then allow a problem to spiral out of control.
3. Procrastination usually results in bigger issues. Often, when you don’t address bad behavior with an uncomfortable conversation, problems compound and get worse. That will hurt your relationships and your bottom line and could lead to major backlash. For instance, if you have an employee who isn’t meeting your conduct standards, but you allow it to continue to avoid confrontation, odds are good the behavior will slip far lower in the future than it is now.
Are you treating your standards like the high jump or the limbo? Are others jumping over the standards you set or just barely getting under the bar? Have the challenging conversation now and explain why you expect your team to be on the high-jump standard. Don’t allow others to get by doing the limbo by having the conversations that are difficult but important.
By dealing with conflict now, you stave off disaster later.