- Be Honest. First of all, tell the truth
- Be clear and precise in the communication
- Give time and space for a response
- Allow expression of emotion
- Share your own feelings
Communicating in a professional setting is challenging itself. When the conversation requires a difficult message, it can become even more so. But it is possible to be straightforward and empathetic at the same time. You don’t need to go get a coffee table book or a special magazine hot off the printing press. We’ll try to help you try to find that out right here:
- Preface your statement with an empathic comment: “I want you.”
- State your message concisely and clearly: “We need to talk.”
- Provide justification: “Your numbers are down in all key areas four months in a row.”
- Offer consequences, if relevant: “If this trend continues, we’ll have no choice but to make some changes.”
- Affirm your relationship with the person: “I want us both to succeed.”
- Offer possible solutions: “What do you think we should do?”
- Reiterate that the relationship is more important than your message: “We’re in this together.”
- Let them know they are heard before ending the conversation.
- If it helps, have a transition sentence ready to use beforehand: “I imagine this is a tough message to hear.”
- Be direct yet empathetic.
Complex messages are simply part of the job when you’re a company that communicates for other companies.
When you have clients who communicate difficult messages, it’s essential to be as helpful as possible.
The guidelines above can help, but they also work for any difficult message you may need to deliver personally as well.
What is a way to communicate difficult information?
Just remember these three things: Decide what kind of relationship you want with them going forward. Focus on them more than yourself. Empathize with their situation first.
- Provide empathy. Most of the time, people already know they are receiving a difficult message, so it’s important to be nice about it! Use phrases that show that you are aware of their situation.
- Use the right tone. The best way to deliver a difficult message is to be factual and professional while still being polite. Avoid being judgmental or critical because this will only make them defensive.
- Provide context. Not everyone knows what’s going on or even who you are. Before you deliver any difficult message, make sure the recipient knows who you are and why they should listen to what you have to say.
- Be clear. This means being specific about the message or decision that is being delivered as well as giving a timeline of what will happen next if applicable.
- Stick to one topic. Don’t make it more difficult by bringing up other topics or giving additional information. This will only make the other person feel overwhelmed.
- Be honest, but not brutal. It’s okay to sugarcoat things if your goal is to be empathetic. However, you should not lie about the message or situation that must be delivered because this will have consequences in the future.
- Provide options. When you can, offer alternative solutions or choices so that the person being delivered the message has some control over their situation. This will work better if they are mentally prepared for what is happening.
- End with relationship building. Before ending your conversation, sum up by expressing your appreciation towards them and how much the relationship means to you.
- Ask for feedback. It’s important to ask if they have any questions or concerns so that you can address them in a productive manner. Then end your conversation by asking if there is anything else that should be addressed before ending the discussion.
- Follow up in 24 hours. After you have delivered your difficult message, you should follow up with any additional information that they will need to know. This also helps them process what has been said before moving on.
Best Practices for Communicating Difficult Issues
- Know Your Audience.
- Find Common Ground.
- Be Kind to Your Audience.
- Identify Your Message(s)
- Make Your Message Appealing.
- Keep the Audience on Message
- Communicating a Message about Behavior Change
- Communicating a Message with Science
- Be a Trusted
- Applied Communications Methods
The use of metaphors helps people understand difficult concepts more easily. Attempt to frame the issue with something relatable for the audience. Explanatory chains make a complicated issue more understandable by setting up a sequence of cause-and-effect statements.
What kinds of communication situations cause you difficulty?
- Communicating in Difficult Situations
- Giving criticism.
- Receiving criticism.
- Delivering bad news.
- Saying “no”
in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, researchers from the University of Florida, have identified six “communication difficulties”. The study suggests that people often understand what others are saying to them but they may lack the ability to process this information.
To identify these difficulties, researchers paired English-speaking adults with a native Spanish speaker. Participants were given a conversation prompt and asked to role-play the scene until they felt comfortable with it. Then, they were asked to record their dialogue for later analysis. Researchers identified six difficulties:
1st difficulty: The inability to identify key information in a message. This situation often occurs when people have trouble identifying what’s important or relevant.
2nd difficulty: The need to find a way to express negative emotions in a positive manner. This is often the case when someone has been hurt or offended by another person’s words and is struggling with how best to communicate those feelings without being hostile or aggressive.
3rd difficulty: Difficulties understanding figurative languages like idioms and metaphors. People often have a hard time identifying the underlying message that is being conveyed by these types of things.
4th difficulty: The need to give negative feedback or criticism in a professional setting without upsetting or hurting someone’s feelings. In situations like these, people may not be good at knowing what to say and how to say it, which can result in avoiding the topic entirely.
5th difficulty: The need to give positive feedback or praise in a professional setting without coming off as phony or insincere. This can be difficult for people who are uncomfortable complimenting others.
6th difficulty: Difficulties with multi-tasking while communicating both verbally and nonverbally at the same time. People who are good at multi-tasking always know what to say and how to say it with their body language.
For adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, or developmental disorders like dyslexia, these six communication difficulties can be very challenging on a daily basis, but they aren’t impossible to overcome. Many people with disabilities have learned to adapt and compensate for their difficulties. If you or someone you know is struggling with any of these six communication difficulties, consider speaking with a professional who has experience in language and social disorders. They can offer advice as to how you can communicate more effectively.