You don’t achieve the things that Delores Hargrove-Young has achieved in business and in life without knowing a thing or two about navigating difficult conversations.

Delores serves as vice chairwoman for d.e. Foxx & Associates, named one of Greater Cincinnati’s largest minority-owned businesses in 2016, where she is a key strategic leader, ambassador and advisor. Among many other community leadership positions, she serves as board chair of Greater Cincinnati Foundation; member of the board of trustees at ArtsWave, CSO and Advocates for Youth Education; and vice chair of development for The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. She was also named a 2020 Enquirer Woman of the Year and Dada Rafiki.

Vehr Communications is fortunate that Delores serves on the Vehr Board of Advisors. Here, she shares a few thoughts on handling tricky or uncomfortable conversations.

Vehr: How do you approach difficult conversations – any advice or best practices you’ve honed over the years?

Hargrove-Young: How I have approached difficult conversations over the years has been to ensure that I remain calm and not allow myself to be emotionally hijacked. This helps me to remain focused and allows me to thwart any blows that might come my way.

Vehr: Is it important to demonstrate empathy even when delivering tough news? If so, do you have any advice for how to be empathetic without being patronizing to the person receiving news they don’t want to hear?

Hargrove-Young: It is important to be genuine and compassionate. I have found it helpful when delivering tough news to ensure that I am being fully present during the conversation, free of any distractions. I “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” as Dr. Stephen R. Covey recommends.

Vehr: What other advice would you give to ensure that a tough discussion remains professional, productive and accomplishes what it needs to accomplish?

Hargrove-Young: I have found that it is important to plan what you want to say over the years, so write down the key points you want to address. Thoughtful planning is helpful in keeping the conversation professional and productive; it also ensures I have accomplished all I wanted to convey without being clouded by my emotions.