Having Difficult Conversations

Ensuring Honest and Meaningful Communications with Others

We attempt to avoid difficult conversations; it’s human nature! It doesn’t matter if we are trying to resolve an issue with a co-worker, trying to solve a problem where we may not agree with a co-workers, providing feedback on performance, or negotiating with a vendor/supplier. However, avoiding is not possible!  We need to learn how to have those difficult conversations and how to have them well.

Difficult, and therefore stressful, conversations are unavoidable in business and in our personal lives. Whatever the context of the conversation, difficult conversations differ from all of our other conversations that we have because of the emotional loads they carry. These types of conversations bring up embarrassment, confusion, stress, frustration, anxiety, fear and anger. Being in the middle of having to have such a conversation makes us want to run and hide from it! When we take an outsider perspective, however, we understand that conflict is normal and it can be managed and resolved.

Successful people confront others well. They know that learning how to confront others and have difficult conversations well improves relationships and solves important problems as well as resolves disagreements and conflicts quickly. Successful people know that uncomfortable situations can be avoided or resolved through direct conversation with others. Unfortunately, we are, often, not very comfortable having conversations that are difficult; we see confrontations as adversarial and something to be avoided.

When we approach difficult conversations with greater self-awareness, prepare for them in advance and apply communication techniques and best practices, we do a much better job of having the conversation well; meaning we engage the other individual in having the right conversation at the right time and coming to agreement and resolution. It doesn’t mean we are not stressed about it; it does mean, however, that we use that stress more productively.


Anyone who wants to improve how they handle difficult conversations.

What You Will Learn

Participants in this one-day workshop will learn a variety of best practices and techniques for having difficult conversations, including:

  • Using self-awareness to manage stress conversations with others Understanding the underlying structure of difficult conversations
  • Preparing ahead of time to ensure success
  • Starting a conversation without defensiveness
  • Using active listening skills to determine the meaning of what is not being said
  • Remaining composed and calm if the other party attacks and accuses
  • Keeping emotions in check to ensure productive problem solving

Participants will utilize a variety of discussions, mini case studies, problem solving scenarios as well as role plays throughout the workshop to practice the concepts learned in the classroom.  Participants are provided templates to use to assist in preparing for and following up with difficult conversations.

Topics Covered

Topics covered in this one day workshop include:

  • A four step process to ensure a successful outcome for a difficult conversation
  • Preparing for having a difficult conversations
  • Setting the stage – picking the right time and the right location to talk
  • Managing through the stress
  • Managing the conversation to ensure a successful outcome
  • Communication best practices
  • Understanding the other party’s perspective to keep them engaged in the conversation
  • Using active listening skills
  • Effective follow up techniques to ensure a successful conclusion and action planning from the difficult conversation
  • Keeping your emotions and feelings in check and managing the emotions and feelings of the other party
  • Conversation openers to start off a difficult conversation right

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