The dreaded dilemma of how to address a team member about a mistake, poor performance or to offer constructive feedback can lead to many sleepless nights. Few people look forward to having difficult conversations but the consequences of avoiding them could be costly and lead to bigger problems for your business down the road. A timely, candid and direct supportive conversation can often help an employee change their behavior and set them up for future success.

Managing challenging situations favorably requires thought and skill. Initiating a difficult conversation with a positive intention is the first step to ensuring a good outcome. Your first words or the first 14 seconds of any conversation is your chance to set the context and emotional tone. Entering into any exchange with ambiguity or finger pointing can derail your objective before you even get started. A better way to frame the discussion is to explain to the other person specifically what you want to talk about, why it is important, and why you’re committed to helping them reach a positive outcome. By articulating your concern and your willingness to help, you will diffuse the possibility of an emotionally charged encounter and establish a positive emotional tone at the onset.

So the next time you encounter a difficult conversation, remember to set the context in the first 14 seconds and see how the exchange is more impactful and effective.