Encountering awkward situations in the workplace is inevitable, however fortunately we have control over how we respond to them. We can gain the skills required to handle uncomfortable situations adeptly or continue feeling awkward indefinitely. Dale Carnegie said, “Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.”
Here are four fears to overcome in order to fortify your future professional success.
Accepting critical feedback. Hearing critical feedback about your performance on the job usually stings. Consider this—the average annual revenue generated by business coaching in the U.S. is a whopping 8.6 billion dollars!1 Instead of viewing critical feedback as sheer criticism, think about it as free, constructive professional coaching. When you hear critical feedback, take a deep breath, listen to everything being said and take some notes. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand how and what to modify—and to demonstrate that you are eagerly willing to improve.
Admitting when you’re wrong. No one likes to admit when they’ve made a mistake, however doing so demonstrates maturity, accountability and strong leadership principles. Apply Dale Carnegie’s 11th Human Relations principle, ‘If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically,’ to remedy the situation. If the mistake can be immediately corrected, first resolve the issue. Next, admit that you made a mistake and let those impacted know that you have already resolved the issue. If you are unable to immediately reverse your faux-pas, create a plan of action, and then follow the aforementioned steps.
Starting small talk. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, the ability to confidently start a conversation with someone is paramount to your professional success. Dale Carnegie’s 8th principle, ‘Talk in terms of the other person’s interests,’ is a surefire way to break the ice and engage new contacts in conversation. Develop a small-talk formula such as the conversation stack taught in the Dale Carnegie Course. While the initial questions posed will be general, you can follow-up with additional questions that show you are truly interested in the other person. For example, if you open by asking if this is the first time someone is attending a conference, you can follow-up with questions about the person’s role in their organization or what they hope to learn from the conference. Showing your genuine interest will enable you to not only start small talk, but keep the conversation going naturally.
Giving critical feedback. The only thing more awkward than receiving critical feedback is giving it. Consider it an opportunity to coach an employee by being gentle, yet direct. State the area of improvement and provide at least two concrete examples so the person on the receiving end is crystal clear about what he or she did incorrectly. Next, guide the employee in a discussion about how it could—and should, have been handled differently. This approach reinforces trust; minimizes confusion and enables the employee to learn from her mistakes.