As a leader, I’ve found that sensitive conversations go about one thousand percent better in person. It’s important for people to be able to see your body language. Everything from your posture, your eye-contact, your facial expressions, the way you nod your head–all of it, if used well–is a treasure trove of communicative tools to express empathy, concern, encouragement…humanness to the other person.
But long before the challenging conversations, I recommend having a habit of regular in-person meetings. If you’re a leader in an organization that has the flexibility for impromptu visits with your employees and coworkers–take advantage of that flexibility to go chat with your people. If you regularly round on folks in a friendly manner, then the relationship will be intact if/when you have to solve a difficult problem or work through a conflict.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been about to send a text or email, or about to pick up the phone to talk to someone, and have decided, “No, I’ll go visit.”
Difficult conversations I’m fairly sure would have disintegrated over the phone went much better in person. It’s a lot harder to walk out on someone than it is to hang up on them. Our bodies communicate in powerful ways. Let’s use them well.