Control a difficult conversation

Many of us hate the idea of difficult conversations of any kind

Some of us hate them to the point where we just avoid them completely, leaving us missing out - see my other blog: the cost of avoiding difficult conversations

But if we change how we approach them - and let's be honest, sometimes you really just cannot avoid them! - then there are some things that you need to remember are actually in your control!

  1. Your attitude

Sometimes we dread the whole conversation so much, or work ourselves into a spiral of negative thoughts, so we are not going into the conversation with a constructive attitude.

Think about it - if you try talking to someone who is already in a bad mood, its much harder to get them to see things differently, than if they're in a positive mood. Well you are just the same!

So when approaching the conversation make sure you're going in with an open mind

  1. How well you listen

There is listening, and then there is listening….

How well are you listening - are you listening so you can get the gist of their argument and come up with your own response while they finish (or even before they finish?)

Or are you listening so you can truly understand their perspective?

Only one of these types of listening is ever going produce constructive outcomes in difficult conversations.

You have 2 ears and 1 mouth - use them in that proportion.

  1. Your responsibility

We all know there are at least 2 sides to every story - yours, theirs and most likely the "truth" is somewhere in between.

Difficult conversations do no go well when there is blame and judgement thrown around.

Take responsibility for your part of the actions, and your responses - you have no right to ask that of the other person if you are not willing to do it as well. Be honest with yourself.

  1. The words you chose

Words can cause all sorts of problems - and solve all sorts of challenges! You just need to make sure you're using the most useful ones!

Rather than telling someone how they made you feel, use an "I " statement

"you made me feel…." becomes "I felt…."

Don't make generalisations like always, never, everyone etc but provide specific examples.

  1. Your assumptions

We all have a tendency to make assumptions without knowing the whole picture, so make sure you're taking action not to do that in a difficult conversation.

If you don’t know what they mean - ask!

If you can't see their perspective - get curious!

If you think you might have made an assumption - clarify it with them!


There are a variety of things in difficult conversations which are OUTSIDE your control, so don't be tempted to waste your time and energy trying to control them!

The biggest one of these is that you cannot control how the other person behaves and reacts. And its not your responsibility to do that either.

Remember how they react says a lot more about them and nothing about you, so go in with the right attitude and controlling what is yours to control, and take on that difficult conversation - and get the best possible outcome for you!