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Whether you’re negotiating with a client or talking with an employee, it’s important to have a plan for navigating difficult conversations. Improving your communication skills will help you deal with challenging encounters more effectively. Your skill level in engaging in a difficult conversation can also help you reach your intended outcome in a more direct manner.

Never End With a Closed Statement
Ending with a closed statement can come off sounding judgmental, and it will limit how the other party can react to you. This can end the conversation prematurely or lead to an awkward silence that interrupts the discussion. You’ll keep the dialogue going more smoothly if you end each statement with an open-ended question. This will invite the other person to respond to you.

Use Positive Body Language
You should plan the setting for any difficult conversation. You won’t want a table or desk between you and the other party since this can create an adversarial situation. Instead, arrange to sit facing one another. Be sure you make eye contact and sit comfortably. The conversation should be conducted in private to ensure you and the other person feel able to express yourselves openly. As you engage in the conversation, use hand gestures and facial expressions that will encourage the other person to open up to you. You will want them to feel at ease during the conversation.

Clearly State Your Position
Before the meeting, you should organize your thoughts and consider what you want to say. It may be helpful to jot down an outline on an index card to help you order your thoughts during the meeting. You’ll want to ensure you make your position clear from the beginning. State your needs openly as well. This will help the other party understand your position before they respond in a similar manner. As each of you details your position, you’ll find it easier to move forward with the conversation.

Excellent communication also involves knowing when to be silent. You should give the other party an opportunity to react to your statements and express their own thoughts. When they finish their statements, repeat or summarize their words to let them know you were listening and comprehending their ideas. This will help you reach a conclusion to the conversation without leaving the other party feeling unheard or under-appreciated.