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Employee Wellness

10 Tips For Managing Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are inevitable in human life. You have to deliver bad news, call someone out for saying something offensive, or have opposing thoughts about polarizing issues. Most of us tend to shy away from engaging in tough dialogues because we are afraid the other party will get sad, mad, or — in the case of friends and loved ones — not want to be friends or love us anymore. But keeping quiet can lead to a build-up of resentment that will possibly boil over into an explosive confrontation the next time around, or result in improper behaviors remaining unchanged. 

“We tend to view difficult conversations as a personal attack, a power struggle that becomes a win-lose situation,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer of MindNation. “But if we treated them as an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, to increase understanding, and to achieve goals, then we can address the situation sooner and with more ease.”

“Falling to engage in difficult conversations with loved ones does the relationship a disservice.”

Danah Gutierrez , Author and R&R.mp3 Podcast Host

For Danah Gutierrez, author and podcast host, falling to engage in difficult conversations with loved ones does the relationship a disservice. “You end up living in this illusion that everything is fine between the two of you, but it’s only fine on the surface. Deep down, something sinister is brewing, which is not good for the relationship.”

While there is no one way to have a difficult conversation, there is a blueprint that we can use to support us as we head into those conversations:

  1. Don’t get into it if you are feeling angry. Never initiate a conversation when you are overly angry, frustrated, or resentful. “While it’s okay to feel emotions, you have to time it right,” points out Salma. “Once you calm down, you’re in a better position to initiate and engage in a conversation.”
  1. Don’t use text, email, or chat, video talk or face to face is better. “Never use emails, texts, or chats to engage in a difficult conversation because things can be lost in translation when written,” says Salma. “And if someone triggers you with their email, don’t take the bait and  don’t defend yourself. Just don’t respond. Ask for a face to face meeting; if that’s not possible, ask for a phone meeting.”
  1. Don’t point fingers, be sarcastic, or call them names. This is especially true when the other person’s words care are racist, homophobic, or misogynistic, thus inflaming our emotions. Call the person out politely and don’t be mean. “Empathize,” Danah advises. “Ask questions and find out why they feel that way. Maybe they were traumatized by a certain race, or those characteristics are the only things they see on tv.” Then respectfully counter these generalizations with your own experiences, such as telling them that you know people from this race who are not what they think them to be. 
  1. Let them share their perspective. When a loved one says or does something that does not sit well with you, ask questions first so you can find out where they are coming from. Danah recommends asking things like “How are you?” “What’s going on?” “I heard you say this, did I hear it correctly?” It’s possible the person only said those words in a moment of heightened emotions or because he or she was confused. 
  1. Use “I” statements. Statements like “From my perspective,” or “The way I see it…” or “I feel __ when you said ___” make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not making accusatory assumptions about the other person’s intentions or behavior. When the other party does not feel judged, emotions de-escalate and a proper conversation can ensue. 
  2. Don’t  lose focus.  If you find yourself facing a lot of resistance, and the person is veering into unrelated matters, Salma suggests a few statements to help get you back on track: 
  • “I understand where you are coming from, but right now we are talking about …”
  • “That may be true but that is not as urgent as what we are discussing now. Let’s prioritize” 
  • “I suggest we park that and come back to it once we finish our conversation.”
  • “Clearly you have a lot on your mind, let’s set up more time to discuss that after we finish what we came to discuss here.” 

“By doing this, you are giving space for their emotions but putting a boundary that this conversation is focused on a certain discussion and that you won’t deviate,” says Salma.

  1. Agree to disagree. “In today’s society, there is so much polarization going on in the form of ‘If you believe this, we cant be friends,’ or ‘If you don’t agree with me, feel free to unfriend me on social media,’” points out Danah. “But when you start living in a bubble of like-minded people, you become out of touch with the reality that there will always be people who think differently than you. We don’t have to fear the people who oppose our views. Instead, offer to meet halfway, and know that you can both walk away from that conversation not hating each other.” 

Now, if the other person is insistent on his or her views, end the conversation politely but with affirmation. “‘I really love how passionate you are about this,’” Danah role-plays. “‘But I don’t want to argue with you, so let’s just agree to disagree.’”

  1. Create accountability. “When wrapping up the conversation related to work performance, make sure to put a deadline within which you want to see the behavior or results changed/improved,” suggests Salma. “Ask them to book it in your calendar so you can reconvene and assess progress. That will ensure they remain accountable to the changes you have requested.”
  1. Don’t expect to change their minds. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion and at the end of the day, it’s not our job to fix other people’s way of thinking,” Danah says. “Always go back to the relationship; know that the two of you can be extremely different but still love and respect each other. Instead of cutting them off from your life because of differing opinions, use these difficult conversations as an opportunity to practice empathy, patience, and emotional intelligence.”
  1. Do set boundaries for future encounters. Anytime a difficult conversation with a loved one feels overwhelming, know that it’s okay to take a step back for your own mental and emotional health. “Some people can be tolerated only in small doses and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Danah points out. 


It is possible to transform difficult conversations into constructive exchanges. We may not be able to control how others think and react, but we can control our own emotions, thoughts, and responses so that the relationship becomes better for it. 

MindNation offers Company Culture Drive Ⓒ Talks — interactive webinars featuring experts on mental health and other dimensions of wellness. One of our most popular talks is “Having Difficult Conversations In The Workplace” where we train managers on how to handle tough conversations with team members, ensuring the well-being of all involved. If you want us to conduct this training for your team, email us at [email protected]

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Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Work in the New Normal

5 Ways Managers Can Care For Their Mental Health

Take care of your wellbeing first so that you can provide care and support for your team members and subordinates

Work is inherently stressful, but working in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on unprecedented pressures in the workplace. 

“Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and we are living in uncertain times. Between rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, questions about whether or not to reopen economies and businesses, unprecedented months-long lockdown measures, and the economic fallout of the pandemic, we don’t know what will come next. And that’s taking a toll on our mental health, including at work,” says Monique Ong, founder of MindNation, a mental health and wellbeing company. 

It’s not just the rank-and-file who are feeling the strain; even workplace leaders are bearing the brunt of isolation, loss of work-home boundaries, and work overload that leads to mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. This is concerning because according to a 2015 article by Canadian Business, “even sub-clinical levels of depression are enough to detract from transformational leadership.” The article adds: “The negative effects on leadership go further: Both sub-clinical levels of depression and anxiety are linked with higher levels of abusive supervision.” 

If you are an executive or manager, it’s important that you take care of your mental health first, not just because it affects your leadership but also because it sets the tone for the rest of the team’s wellbeing. “It’s much like the rule in an airplane about putting in your own oxygen mask first before assisting others; you have to take care of yourself so you can do the same for everyone else,” says Monique. 

Here are some ways you can improve your mental health: 

  1. Know the difference between the things you can control and those that you cannot. “When you focus too much on what you can’t control (i.e. difficult co-workers or the neverending piles of paperwork) you take energy and attention away from the things that you CAN control (i.e. how you respond to the co-worker or how you manage your time),” points out Monique. “This makes us less effective and potentially leads to the outcomes we fear the most, such as arguments with the colleague or not achieving work-life balance.”

So the next time you find yourself worrying or feeling uncertain about a particular area of your life, try using the questions below to clarify where you have control, where you don’t, and how to focus on what matters: 

  1. Think of an ongoing unresolved situation in your life. Write a brief outline of the facts and why it feels unresolved for you.
  2.  What can you control in this situation? Make a list.
  3. What can’t you control in this situation? Make a list.
  4. Be honest with yourself — on which of the above things are you spending most of your energy and attention right now?
  5. How can you focus more on the things you can control? What would that look like?

“Once you know that you are doing as much as you reasonably can to create a healthy happy space in your mind, the more at peace you will feel about all the variables outside of your control,” says Monique. “This does not mean that you are free from nerves or anxiety, but that input and effort can give you deeper self-trust and veer away from feelings of hopelessness and anxiety.” 

2. Reframe your thinking. This means identifying your negative and unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more positive or adaptive ones.Examples of negative thoughts include:

  1. Limiting beliefs, i.e. “I am not good enough to head this project”
  2. When you wish that something acceptable were better a.k.a the fear of missing out “

The next time a negative thought enters your head, replace them with positive ones by:

  1. Using milder wording. “I hate that guy” will only make your anger worsen; “I’m not a fan of that guy” sounds better.
  2. Ask yourself ‘What can I learn from this?’” This way, every obstacle becomes a learning opportunity.

3. Practice self-compassion. This means being understanding towards yourself during times that you feel inadequate, unsuccessful, or are suffering. Instead of beating yourself up with self-criticism, treat yourself gently and recognize that you are only human. “Nobody is perfect; all humans suffer and make mistakes, so self-compassion means recognizing that problems and trials are things that everyone in the world goes through and not just you alone,” says Monique.

4. Prioritize self-care. Focus on yourself and do activities that nurture your physical, mental, and emotional health. “It seems easy and simple, but it’s the first thing that people forget about when they become busy,” reminds Minique. “Practicing proper self-care habits will keep you from reaching the point of exhaustion, helping you function normally under stress, and refocus to help you perform better.”

5. Seek help. “The truth is we’re all going to struggle at some point. We’re going to have moments when we can’t find the strength to stand, or when we just can’t do it alone. And in those moments are when we have to know that it’s okay to lean on others. It’s okay to seek assistance and love outside of ourselves,” says Monique. “Strength does not always have to come from your body. It can come from surrounding yourself with people who love you, and from people and resources outside of your expertise.” If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, a good place to start to get help would be MindNation’s 24/7 chat helpline, which is available for FREE on FB Messenger. All conversations are kept secure and confidential, and the staff is trained to ease anxieties. 

Stay Afloat!

By taking care of your own mental health, you become a more effective, empathetic, and perceptive leader and by extension create happier, healthier, and more productive teams. 

Fore more information about MindNation’s products and services, visit www.themindnation.com

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

Categories
Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

7 Ways To Be a Leader (Not Just A Manager)

While leadership and management go hand in hand, they are not the same thing

“Leaders” and “managers” are often used interchangeably, and while there is some overlap between the work that they do, there are also important differences. 

In his seminal 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,”  Warren Bennis — American scholar, organizational consultant, and widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of leadership studies — compiled a list of these differences: 

— A manager administers, a leader innovates

— A manager maintains, a leader is an original

— A manager focuses on systems and structure, a leader focuses on people

— A manager relies on control, a leader inspires trust

— A manager has a short-range view, a leader has a long-range perspective

— A manager asks “how” and “when,” a leader asks “how” and “why”

— A manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line, a leader’s eye is on the horizon

— A manager imitates, a leader originates

— A manager accepts the status quo, a leader challenges it

— A manager does things right, a leader does the right thing

The best managers are leaders, but you do not necessarily have to be in a managerial position to be a leader. Any time you act in a way that inspires, encourages, or engages others, you are a leader. 

That said, whether you are a veteran or aspiring manager, possessing strong leadership skills is important because not only will it lead to better job performance, you also gain the knowledge and opportunity to influence the context and environment in which decisions get made. We’ve outlined below seven steps to help you get started on how to be  a leader at work:

  1. Work on your mental and emotional health

As a leader, you will be expected to set the tone during stressful and uncertain times, of which the workplace has many. This does not mean you should have the answers to all the problems; rather, it means you need to have the conviction and resilience to move forward. So not only should you be ready for anything, you also need to bring creativity, humor, and curiosity to stressful situations so that others can rely on you when things become difficult. 

  1. Practice self-awareness

Companies are not the only ones that have a brand identity — people do, too. A person’s work brand is based on his or her strengths, weaknesses, and what they contribute to the organization? As a leader, you need to be aware of your work brand so that you can develop yourself and, as a result, your leadership. So always seek feedback about your performance, whether it’s from a peer, someone more senior, and even from more junior staff — and take these seriously and professionally. 

  1. Adopt a growth mindset. 

Find ways to constantly improve yourself and your situation, whether it’s by honing your existing skills or developing new ones. 

  1. Be supportive. 

A true leader is a great facilitator. So encourage others to speak up instead of constantly offering only your opinions. Publicly recognize them when they do an excellent job, and resolve differences constructively. Create a safe space for people to open up to you if something is bothering them. Doing these builds trust in the workplace, creates rapport, develops positive mental well-being, and gives others the opportunity to improve themselves as well.

  1.  Think strategically.

A good leader is always goal-oriented — he or she has a plan on how to achieve those goals and the determination to act on them. When dealing with team members, it means you recognize the potential in everyone and know how to delegate to make the best of their strengths. 

  1. Be innovative.

Constantly think of ways to set your business apart from competitors. When you contribute creative ideas that are out of the box but benefit your company’s bottom line, you are exemplifying true leadership.

  1. Take the initiative. 

When you have done all of the above, it means you have led your team to working at maximum efficiency. This means you now have some time to learn new things or take on more responsibility. Don’t be afraid to ask management for more responsibility so you can further level up your game. When it comes to developing your leadership skills, the sky is the limit. 

As with other traits, leadership is a quality that needs to be shaped. By practicing empathy, openness, and self-awareness, professionals of all levels can develop leadership skills and find out how to bring out the best in themselves and others.

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation