Top Tips for Tricky Conversations

Having any sort of confrontation or tricky conversation isn't something any of us look forward to, especially at work. However, there are things you can do to make the conversation more focussed and to ensure you reach the desired outcome.

Here are a few tips and a little advice on having difficult conversations at work and how to handle those tricky situations.

1. Think through your opening

Consider how you will begin the conversation and talk through it in your head or out loud beforehand. Sometimes the hardest part of a difficult conversation can be starting it, so make sure you're prepared and practiced.

2. Stick to the facts

Make sure you're clear on what happened (the situation) and be clear on your desired outcome. Don't make any assumptions and stick to facts and examples of what happened. Using actual examples of what you witnessed will help the individual to understand the situation and will ensure you keep it 'fact based', specifically focussed on your experience of what happened.

3. Show you care

Be sure to ask the individual how they feel things are going (if discussing performance) or how they are feeling. Difficult conversations can be about a variety of things such as conduct or behavioural issues at work. In these situations it is important to allow the individual the opportunity to give their account of the situation. There may be underlying issues or a situation outside of work that you aren't aware of, that may be impacting on the individual. It is important to give the individual the opportunity to give their account. This shows you care. Remember, these conversations can have a lasting impact on your relationship with that individual so allow them to talk, whilst ensuring that you get your concerns across and reach your desired outcome.

4. Use "I" statements

Many people revert to "we" statements without realising it. Be sure to use "I" statements when describing their behaviour (for example) or what you have witnessed. This ensures you keep the focus to the facts and what you, personally have witnessed. "I" statements help to emphasise your desire to reach a solution in a constructive way, without conflict.

5. Don't take it personally

Difficult conversations aren't just hard for the individual, they are also hard for you, the person initiating or leading the conversation. Nobody likes to upset people, however, entering into a conversation being aware that emotions may come to the surface, will help you to be prepared. If you approach the conversation thinking that you don't want them to be upset, this may lead you away from discussing and addressing the real issue and take you off track from reaching your desired outcome. Ultimately, if the situation can be resolved in a constructive way, this will be the best result for both parties so try not to take it personally.

Difficult conversations are never easy, but by sticking to the facts and making sure you're prepared, you can have a productive and constructive discussion.

If you would like to discuss 'Difficult/Challenging Conversations' training, please contact us via the contact form on this website, or email on

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