When it comes to difficult conversations, lead with whatever you dread saying, says leadership coach Peter Bregman. Done right, being direct and upfront is more considerate than softening the blow.
Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Bregman explains that we tend to underestimate people’s capacity for difficult topics. He found that he was usually more uncomfortable delivering bad news than the other person was receiving it.
Next time you have a conversation you’re dreading, lead with the part you’re dreading. Get to the conclusion in the first sentence. Cringe fast and cringe early. It’s a simple move that few of us make consistently because it requires emotional courage. At least the first time.
But the more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes. Being direct and upfront does not mean being callous or unnecessarily harsh. In fact, it’s the opposite; done with care, being direct is far more considerate.
That’s only the start of the conversation and you will still need to talk at length, explaining the reasons or the logic. When you do that, avoid “but” sentences to keep your message clear.
How to Start a Conversation You’re Dreading [Harvard Business Review]