Awkward conversations happen. Sometimes it’s because it’s a difficult or uncomfortable topic, sometimes it’s because of the relationship you have with the staff member, and sometimes it’s just because you’re not used to being in a position where you have to discuss certain topics with staff (don’t worry, it get’s easier with time, you’ll get there).
I thought it would be a great time to cover this since I recently talked about awkward conversations in my last post about Campmances, if you missed it, check it out here.
Scott Arizala, of the Scott Arizala Show has a great video about having difficult conversations over at Camp Hacker. I highly recommend you check it out.
In the mean time, here are 5 quick tips on how to mitigate the awkwardness of certain conversations.
1. Don’t build it up too much.
You don’t need to make a bigger deal out of a conversation than necessary. Ask the counsellor(s) to meet you in a comfortable space where you’ll have privacy, or say “can I grab you for a sec to chat?” if you’re not far from your destination. I can’t imagine anything worse than pulling someone aside to chat, then walking with them for 5 minutes and not getting to it until you reach your destination. Can you imagine what would be going through their head? There’s no need to torture the poor soul, just get on with it.
Also, be aware of your body language and the scenario you’ve set up. Don’t create a situation where they’re sitting and you’re standing, or visa versa it impacts the dynamic of the conversation, and not in a good way.
2. Be upfront.
Embrace the awkwardness. If you’re uncomfortable, just acknowledge it (to yourself) take a deep breath and power through because the more uncomfortable you are the more uncomfortable they’re going to be, and that’s not fair to them.
There’s no need to beat around the bush and hmm and haw over it. Just put it out there, be honest, and be kind too. You can be straightforward without being harsh.
3. Be concise.
If you’re having a hard/ awkward conversation with someone, believe me, they will appreciate it if you just get it over with already.
No one likes to be sermonized to… so lecturing won’t really help anything. As long as you cover all of the important points, do everybody a favour and move on.
4. Prepare before hand.
Know what you’re going to say going in. You’re initiating this conversation so you need to know what you hope to gain from it. If you don’t have a game plan, chances are you’ll end up talking for a lot longer than you planned and you will get sidetracked more easily.
Even if it’s a situation where you have to intervene immediately, you can still buy yourself a few minutes.
For example, Jim is interacting with his campers in a way you don’t like. He seems way too intense about the game they’re playing and is getting super competitive to the point of crossing the line. You obviously aren’t going to call him out in front of everyone (at least, I hope not… if so, then we need to chat, cause that’s pretty basic leadership knowledge, and it’s just not cool) but you aren’t sure what to say to him in this moment either.
Here’s an option, call Jim over tell him you need to chat with him for a minute then suggest that he takes a 5, grabs some water and meets you in your office. You head back to your office and prepare for your conversation.
This wouldn’t be an awkward situation for most experienced camp leaders, but if you’re just starting out in a leadership position and have never had to have this type of chat before, it can be stressful. This would be a great opportunity to coach Jim on better ways to interact with his campers. So take a deep breath and go for it.
5. Use all of your interactions with campers and staff as learning opportunities.
Even though there are some very sage and wise people out there, no one is perfect and everyone has room for growth no matter where they are in their career. So I try to make a point of reflecting on conversations I have with the people around me, especially the hard ones. I look at what went right and what could have gone better to try to improve on my technique the next time I’m faced with a similar situation.
Bonus Tip: Stay Calm.
No matter how freaked out you are, or how angry or upset you are, you need to stay professional. So, like I said in tip #2, take a deep breath and you’ll be ok. You’ve got this!
Have you ever had to have a difficult or awkward conversation with someone you worked with? How did you handle it? Tell me about it in the comment section below.
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