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It seems everything these days is divisive and confrontational.

But that doesn’t mean we should shy away from talking about tough topics at work. In fact, we need to talk about them more than ever before. There’s no better way to build connections, develop empathy, and see the other side than to talk to people.

Celeste Headlee, award-winning journalist, speaker, and author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away From Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving and Speaking of Race: Why Everyone Needs to Talk About Race–And How To Do It, says it’s important to talk about things like politics and race at work but to do it in a respectful and level-headed way.

Celeste gives four suggestions for having tough conversations:

  1. Stop going into conversations to change someone’s mind. Confrontation comes when we try to convince someone that our way is right. Instead, share your viewpoint and listen to the other person. Go into the conversation to share and learn, not persuade.
  2. Don’t worry about your response or what you’ll say next. Instead, think about what you want to hear from the other person to understand their side better. Focus on listening to their side instead of mentally preparing your comeback.
  3. Connect with the other person emotionally and show them empathy instead of trying to logically win a fight with statistics and facts. People aren’t numbers. Oftentimes the best understanding happens when we remember people as people and find human and emotional connections instead of getting wrapped up in statistics.
  4. Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to have this type of conversation. If you’re maxed out or on edge, it’s probably not the right time to talk about tough topics. Evaluate your mental capacity and energy before you begin.

Tough topics can be polarizing, but they can also be opportunities to understand people better and open your mind to new points of view. By having these difficult conversations in a respectful way, you can build relationships and create a welcome and inclusive work environment.

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Companies with better employee experiences have more engaged and productive workers, higher profits, and the ability to attract and retain talent. In today’s competitive talent landscape, companies can’t afford not to invest in employee experience. Download your copy and start creating better experiences for your employees and customers today!