Make the Most of a Difficult Conversation by Doing This First

One morning a customer brought a shredded dress to me to return. 

The store policy was that once you washed something you bought, it was yours forever. 
“I washed this dress… and when I took it out it fell apart.”
This was my reply:
“Ma’am, I’m sorry this happened. Normally our policy is that we don’t give refunds on washed or worn items. But this is unique. We certainly value your business. And I can’t imagine that by simply washing it, it would look like this. Would you like a refund or a store credit?”
Her expression was one of joy and relief. 
She was happy because she didn’t lose her money. I was happy because I kept her as a customer.
The Problem
I’ll bet you don’t like dealing with angry people. 
It’s no fun to tell someone you can’t do what she wants you to. 
It’s not refreshing to listen to someone’s angry tirade about how lousy your product is. 
Wouldn’t you like to know what to do to make the most of a difficult conversation? 
Read on to discover how. 
What are the obstacles?
If you want to improve, you’ve got to know what may stand in the way. 
First, when you have a difficult conversation, you might fear the possible outcome
Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball? If you knew what might happen, you could prepare for it, right? 
Take a few minutes and do that when you have some down time. Imagine a worst-case scenario. Think about all the things that could happen. Then imagine how you would respond as a knowledgeable, confident, able individual. 
I promise it will make all the difference. It will ease the fear. You’ll be more prepared. And the encounter will turn out better for you and the other person.
Second, you might let anger set the tone. 
When you give in to anger, you let go of reason. 
It’s like having a conversation with an arsonist. 
Problems escalate. Relationships get destroyed. And the long-term damage might become permanent. 
Third, you might give the other person too much. 

If someone’s angry with you, you might let her have what she wants to please her. 
But what if what she wants isn’t good for her? 
What if you have to lie to make her happy? 
What if you make a compromise you shouldn’t? 
All these things can hinder your ability to make the most of a difficult conversation. 
What is the Best Thing to Do First?
You have more power than you think. 
You can set the tone for a difficult conversation. All you have to do first is this one thing: 
Begin%20in%20a%20friendly%20way.
Who do you like to do business with? Friends or strangers? 
I’ll bet it’s a friend. Friends are loyal to a fault. Friends care about your best interests. Friends will stick with you through tough problems. 
Will strangers do that?
Here are four ways you can begin in a friendly way. 
1. Start with a compliment
You like it when someone says something nice about you, don’t you? If someone takes the time to do that for you, you’ll do anything she asks, right? This technique is especially powerful if it isn’t tied to some expectation. 
2. Make the problem seem solvable. 
Be inspiring instead of hopeless. If you can convey a sense of possibility, you’re halfway home. Let the other person know you’re willing to do what it takes to make things better. 
3. Assume the other person has the best motives. 
Tell the other person you believe she has good intentions. Appeal to her desire to help, to do good, and to improve. Be willing to partner with her in carrying out her intentions. 
4.  Find common ground. 
As humans we all share some of the same desires. At the very least, we all get hungry. We have things that make us happy, sad, or tired. Appeal to something you can both agree on and make progress. 
Now you have a strategy to make all your difficult conversations easier. You know the obstacles you might face and how to overcome them. You have four ways to begin in a friendly way. 
Start doing this today and you’ll begin to make the most of any difficult conversation!