Difficult Conversations: The Right Time and Location

In my previous top tip I suggested that preparation and planning are vital before embarking upon a difficult conversation.

In this tip I will share with you some top tips for getting the meeting off on the right foot

Top Tip No.3 is “The Right Time and Location”

So when is the right time?

A common misunderstanding is that ‘feedback’ (which is of course what any difficult conversation is about) should take place ASAP after the event.

The problem here is that ASAP generally means as soon as it is convenient for you the manager!

But what if ASAP is a bad time for the individual? What if they are still emotionally charged by the situation or if ASAP clashes with something else they need to be doing? What if ASAP for you is 0900 the next morning and they are a “don’t speak to me until I have had my first cup of coffee” type person!

The point is that ASAP needs to consider the question “when is the best time for them such that they are most likely to take the feedback on board?”

Now of course if the situation is such that it needs to be dealt with immediately (e.g. safety or compliance issue) that is different but most of the time we have a choice. If you have spent the time planning your approach, don’t undo your good work by ignoring the other person’s needs and potentially make the conversation harder that it should be.

So what about the right place?

The same applies. Ask yourself the question “what is the best place for them such that they are most likely to take the feedback on board?”. Most often this will be a private area at work, but it could be a quiet corner or maybe even at a nearby coffee shop. 

Where’s your right place?