From challenge comes change: managing difficult conversations
It takes courage and confidence to express an opposing opinion or have a challenging discussion, whether in-person or through a virtual meeting.
Our research finds that this is particularly true for women in business. The amount of women in senior leadership positions is steadily increasing; an encouraging indicator that women are continuing to break down barriers in the workplace. However in many cases, the environment is still male-dominated, and women can face unique challenges as they navigate their careers.
Our All the workplace is a stage report found that women are 60% more likely than men not to feel comfortable expressing themselves at work, while our report Beating workplace performance anxiety discovered women are 58% more likely to feel anxious when presenting, and 42% more likely to feel anxious when they are spontaneously asked to comment in a meeting.
Here, RADA Business tutor Kath Burlinson shares some simple advice to help women feel empowered to make their voices heard, even in challenging situations.
How can we mentally and physically prepare ourselves for complex conversations?
When we talk about preparing ourselves, we don’t just mean mentally, but physically as well – we call this the embodied process.
Shake your body out before you start your meeting, so that it feels loose and relaxed.
Sit upright in your chair, shoulders open, with your legs uncrossed and feet planted firmly on the floor. This will help to ground you and help prepare you for the conversation, giving you a strong base to operate from. This stance also allows your lungs to have full capacity, so you can breathe deeply and set your voice free. If you are communicating virtually, these techniques will help you portray confidence through a video screen as well – remember the space you take up in the real world.
Mentally rehearse the situation and the outcome you are hoping to achieve, this will help you to keep your goal in mind.
When we feel nervous, we can forget to breath properly. Breathe slowly and rhythmically throughout your meeting, so that your mind and body feel connected.
How can we effectively challenge in the workplace?
By using our body, breath and voice, we can manage the situation, stay calm and help to assert authority.
When taking part in a challenging conversation, we may often feel the need to fill silence. However, before speaking, remember to pause and breath out, as it buys you time to develop a thought. Then use "one breath, one thought" as opposed to blurting out a flustered response in a difficult or pressured situation.
If someone tries to interrupt, be clear and direct. You can simply say ‘I’m speaking’, with a polite smile and continue as you were.
Finally, use your voice to establish your authority. Vary your pitch and tone to keep people engaged and remember to end your sentences on a full stop, so that they are making statements and not asking constant questions. Take your time when speaking. After all, what you have to say is important.
Transform your performance
Our programme of women's courses has been created to help women manage any such anxieties and transform their workplace performance, giving them the skills to flex their leadership style and communicate effectively. Our expert tutors will help you thrive at work and feel empowered to perform.
You will develop a deeper understanding of your own communication style and learn how to adapt to any workplace scenario, whatever your stage.
We offer three levels of training, to help women perform brilliantly.
Executive Presence for Women
An engaging and practical programme for senior women.
Impact and Influence for Women
A specialist training programme for women at management level.
Stepping up with Confidence for Women
For women who want to move up to management level.