Guide Difficult Conversations in 3 Steps

5 mins

When you start a difficult conversation, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable — and that’s okay. 


Taking the right approach will help defuse some of the tension, and allow you to create an open forum for conversation.

Frame a difficult topic in a way that encourages open discussion.

Keep the conversation on track with these three steps:

1. State the facts.

2. Share your opinion of the situation.

3. Ask for clarification — for their side of the story.

Let's practice:

Caroline said the following to her direct report regarding his poor time management: “I've noticed that you've been coming in five minutes late to almost every meeting recently. You know that every minute counts, and your late arrivals have forced me to adjust my meeting agendas. Is there something I can do to help you manage your time differently?”

What could Caroline have done to initiate the conversation even more effectively?

Quiz 1 of 1

What could Caroline have done to initiate the conversation even more effectively?

a
Give her opinion on why being late is poor behavior and upsets the client.
b
Focus on the well-being of the whole team instead of talking about how the behavior affects her personally.
c
Open the conversation with a positive statement to make sure the person doesn't feel threatened.
d
Make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable and that the employee is to blame.

The correct answer is B.

Caroline should focus her comments on the well-being of the team instead of how the behavior affects her personally. The other person is much less likely to feel threatened with this approach.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP:

Keep these three steps in mind the next time you need to have a difficult conversation with an employee.

Lesson complete