Difficult Conversations: Nine Common Mistakes

Posted May 10, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

When it comes to having difficult conversations, we make colossal mistakes throughout. Whether you’re talking about salary with your boss or marriage with your boyfriend, tense topics can create big opportunities to stumble over our words and at times even become our worst selves.

Harvard Business Review has put together a fantastic slideshow highlighting “Difficult Conversations: 9 Common Mistakes.” I encourage you to scroll through the entire slideshow, but I’ll share with you the mistake that most resonated with me:

Mistake #6: We get “hooked.”
Everyone has a weak spot. And when someone finds ours – whether inadvertently, with a stray arrow, or because he is hoping to hurt us – it becomes even harder to stay out of the combat mentality. Maybe yours is tied to your job – you feel like your department doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Or maybe it’s more personal. But whatever it is, take the time to learn what hooks you. Just knowing where you’re vulnerable will help you stay in control when someone pokes you there.

This is something my coach and I have been working on lately. Asking myself, “Why did I get hooked by that?” It’s that moment in a conversation when someone says something that shouldn’t drive you crazy, but it does. And then you can’t let go of that one sentence or action – you’re hooked. The key to avoiding this is to recognize what those things are that often “hook” you. For me, it’s criticism that comes without explanation. I can get seething mad without reason, and I’m “hooked.”

What are your common mistakes in difficult conversations? Do these 9 things resonate with you? Which in particular?

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."