Difficult Conversations at Work: Ditch the Email

By Linda DeLuca, Executive Coach – When it comes to difficult conversations, step away from your email. Respect the importance of the conversation. Use the most personal way of communicating available.

Crafting vs Delivering Messages

Writing is my preferred method of communicating. It’s especially helpful when I need to have a difficult conversation with someone important to me, either personally or professionally. Writing provides a way to work through what to say and how to say it. Seeing and then reading the words from the page allows me to edit and tweak until the message is clear.

Though I may feel more comfortable using email to craft my message, it’s not the ideal way to deliver a message. Having a difficult conversation over email is likely to only delay a resolution and may even make the situation worse. Emails, and other forms of text-based communication, lack the depth of live interaction. This lack of depth leads to increased misunderstandings, further straining the relationship.

Success is based on strong, trust-based relationships. Strengthen those relationships by choosing the best method to have that conversation.

Keep Difficult Conversations Personal

Ditch the email and go with the most personal communication form available. I’ve moved from having difficult conversations by email and text to the most personal method available (in order of preference):

  • Face-to-face meeting at a neutral location
  • Video chat for people beyond driving distance
  • Scheduled and focused phone conversation

Face-to-face meetings provide the exchange of ideas and information, both verbal and non-verbal. A meeting allows you to gauge someone’s reactions. You’ll get a better sense of how your message is being received. It also allows for an exchange of ideas, questions, and perspectives. A face-to-face meeting is more risky. You don’t know what questions will be asked or what the other person’s reaction will be. It will also allow you to answer those questions and respond to reactions in real-time.

Video chat also allows you to observe non-verbal messages and to have an exchange of ideas―a conversation. Some people are less comfortable with this method. It may be a good idea to practice with an easier conversation first.

Live phone conversations aren’t the ideal situation, but they still provide a great deal of non-verbal messaging as well as opportunities for back-and-forth conversations.

Let’s face it, difficult conversations aren’t likely to be resolved by a simple email. Why not allow for the back-and-forth conversation and get the outcome you desire?