Begin by acknowledging the emotions. Take a minute and take stock of your own emotions. Name them. Are you angry, sad, happy, surprised, disappointed? Usually there are many emotions happening simultaneously. Acknowledge as many as you can. Next, identify the underlying causes. Often there's a story connected to the emotion that's causing you to react but has nothing to do with the current event. If you can identify the story (usually an old, familiar one), you can bring some awareness to the situation. The awareness tells you how much of the emotion has to do with the current event and how much of it is from the past event. Once you know, you can choose how to utilize the energy. For example, with a huge emotion, you might be tempted to hide it or to act it out on the other person. When you get a sense about why the event is so charged, you'll regain some balance and be able to make a wiser decision about how to (or even if you want to) have a conversation with the person instead.
Acknowledge the other person's feelings as well. Consider what story they might be telling themselves, and inquire about it. For example: "You sound upset (acknowledgment). Are you? Have I said something that caused you to react this way (inquiry)?" It just takes practice, like anything else.
Most books on this topic, though they may speak differently about them, identify the same basic skills for handling difficult conversations:
1. Start with yourself. Acknowledge your feelings and gain control of them. Breathe. Identify your desired outcome for the conversation and try to guess at theirs. What do they want? What do you want?
2. Be curious. Inquire. Find out how they see the situation. Ask useful questions and listen. Don't judge or make assumptions. Don't take it personally. This is their story and they can tell it whatever way they want. Support them.
3. Acknowledge their story and their feelings. Validate their concerns. This doesn't mean you agree. It means that you hear them. It's a tremendous gift and moves the conversation in a useful direction. You get a gift, too. You learn a lot about what's important to this person, which will be helpful when you begin to look for solutions.
4. Advocate for yourself. What is your story? What are they not seeing? Explain how the situation looks from your perspective. Go slowly and don't assume.
5. Build solutions based on new understanding. As you begin to listen and talk, information comes out that will help you co-create effective solutions with your partner.
Job seeker should appear to be able to reason logically and forcibly argue for what is best for the company; should be respectful to, but not intimidated by higher management.
Candidate should appear to know how to convince others that their point is right. Sees conflict as natural. Never personalizes it, but explains the issues involved forcefully; stands up for what he believes is best for the business in a logical and reasonable manner.
Answer given should show you that the candidate can stick with it and work through negativity quickly.