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Home > Crew Matters > How to have a difficult conversation with another crew member 
ATTACHMENT DETAILS Difficult-conversations

How to have a difficult conversation with another crew member 

Conflicts in workplaces are tales as old as time, and in environments like yachting, where there exists a strong sense of hierarchy, high pressure, and long unsociable hours, conflict is nothing short of inevitable.

To avoid conflict, we may find ourselves needing to have conversations that may feel uncomfortable but are quite possibly necessary. It is common knowledge amongst many, that communication is the cornerstone of success in any relationship in our lives, and in turn, the breakdown of communication is proven to dismantle our relationships with others.

Leaving things unsaid in the workplace about the issues that bother us causes emotions and feelings to fester and can lead to outbursts later on. For example, if you were heading on a long transatlantic crossing with someone whose habits irritate you on a daily basis, it might be a good idea to voice your irritation before heading out to sea for three weeks with said person. It could be as small an issue as your cabin mate leaving their clothes on the floor, or a bigger issue such as inappropriate language and upsetting behaviour.

Wether or not to bring up the habits that irk you about the people you work with is a hard call to make but it’s almost certain that raising your grievances in a healthy and considerate way will strengthen your ability to work successfully with your colleagues.

To ensure that you are having successful conversations with fellow crew members you may wish to follow this guideline:

Allow your values to lead you 

Preparing to have a difficult conversation can come with some trepidation over wether or not what your feelings on a certain subject or issue are justifiable. The answer to this is to always lead with your core values, as in: what do you believe in? If something you are witnessing in the workplace doesn’t align with your core values then you can rest assured that raising this issue with a colleague will only result in your own peace of mind rather than allowing behaviour that you don’t agree with to continue. Just remember that we are not all from the same backgrounds and so something that is obviously not right to you may be less obvious to another.

Feel the fear but do it anyway 

It can be nerve wracking and uncomfortable to have tricky conversations, but ultimately if something has been on your mind for an extended period of time, expressing your feelings is only going to relieve further stress. The outcome of your conversation may surprise you, and however tricky the communication is, once you have put across your views successfully you are sure to be able to move forward in a more positive way and feel a sense of relief.

Practice empathy and courtesy 

Perhaps your difficult conversation is focused around someone else’s behaviour or even their personality, therefore treading gently around certain subjects is recommended. Avoid using language that can be deemed as aggressive or patronising and take the other persons feelings into account. Practicing empathy is important, putting yourself in the other’s shoes reminds us to remain gracious and calm.

Be direct and assertive, within reason  

Directness sometimes gets a bad rep, or can come across as confrontation. But most would agree that direct and clear communication can avoid lengthy explanations later down the line and ultimately cuts out a lot of extra work. Practice articulating yourself in a clear way and avoid over explanations where you can. It may feel unnatural at first to communicate this way, but most people who work in high stress environments will understand that it is not personal. The more you practice this type of communication with those you work with, the easier it will be to continue in this way.

And lastly, try not to take it all too seriously. We are all trying our best and most of the time others around us are not doing things with the aim to personally upset us. Remembering this can help you to stay calm and keep your emotions from boiling over. With better communication we create better environments within which we can thrive and enjoy our time onboard together, staying true to the main goal.

If you interested in developing your skills as a leader in greater depth then join us for The Advanced Leadership Course in July! For more info contact Karine via her email

The Crew Coach


Karine Rayson