Constantly putting off dealing with a situation that must be solved, by avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation, can undermine your workplace environment. Unwanted behaviours may perpetuate over time, solidifying attitudes, infecting other co-workers and turning a conversation that could be easy at first into an increasingly more difficult one.
Go straight to the point.
After greeting and establishing a rapport with the other person, approach the matter outright at the beginning of the conversation, in order for the conversation to proceed with a good atmosphere.
Do not beat around the bush and do not be hasty. Lay out the facts or the situation you want to clarify. Do not be judgemental.
This communication style is more open and less threatening.
Treat the other person like they wish to be treated.
There is an old adage that says we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. But people are not all the same, and not all communication styles suit all people. What is important to you may not be important to the other person, and similarly, details you do not consider important may be crucial to the other person. Keep in mind who is in front of you, and try to figure out what communication style is most effective with them. Treat them like they would wish to be treated.
Emotion prevails during a difficult conversation.
The other party may be, or think that they are, right and should, therefore, be able to state their point of view. Do not assume you are 100% right in your beliefs or that the other person is 100% wrong. Even if you disagree with what is being said, instead of immediately denying it, ask questions so to force the other party to reflect and give you time to formulate suitable answers.
When in disagreement, you should be prepared to listen, ask clarifying questions and, only after, should you worry about speaking.
You do not need to talk too much, it is even more important to listen so you are able to understand and deconstruct the other party’s point of view. Show you are paying attention to what is being said and encourage the other party to develop their thoughts. Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”. Check if both of you are understanding each other by rephrasing what was said so each party can validate it.
Above all, do not avoid difficult conversations just because you anticipate they may be unpleasant. Expect the best possible scenario, but prepare for the worst.
(See also https://hbr.org/2017/05/how-to-have-difficult-conversations-when-you-dont-like-conflict)