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How comfortable are you with initiating “uncomfortable conversations”?

The most recent SmartBrief on Leadership poll question: How comfortable are you with initiating "uncomfortable conversations?"

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How comfortable are you with initiating "uncomfortable conversations"?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 200,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How comfortable are you with initiating “uncomfortable conversations”?

  • Very: When there’s an uncomfortable topic, I proactively bring it up immediately: 5.60%
  • Mostly: I may hesitate, but I do bring up the most important uncomfortable topics: 24.58%
  • Sort of: Unless it’s a huge issue, I’ll tend to let the issue pass: 9.67%
  • Not very: I have a really hard time initiating uncomfortable conversations: 7.89%
  • Not at all: I’ll avoid these conversations at all costs, let alone starting them: 52.26%

Avoidance leads to bigger issues. A huge percentage of you avoid difficult or uncomfortable conversations at all costs. While this might alleviate stress in the near term, it makes for bigger headaches in the long run. If someone doesn’t know something is wrong about their behavior, not telling them is a disservice to them and you. People can’t correct what they’re unaware of. And avoiding the conversation in the hopes that the behavior just disappears is wishful thinking. Over time, things will just get worse and that mildly uncomfortable conversation can become extremely uncomfortable and problematic.

Do yourself a favor: Tell them what’s going on. Letting things fester only makes them worse. Your next step after reading this: Find time to have that uncomfortable conversation you’ve been avoiding. You might be pleasantly surprised by how well it goes when the other person gets feedback they can act on to improve their performance and their relationship with you.


Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, which includes TITAN — the firm’s e-learning platform. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a West oint graduate and author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”