Making Difficult Conversations Easier
Lead Coach and Facilitator at Choose Leadership | Working with Purpose Driven Leaders and Organisations
two monkeys talking to each other

I was recently working with a group of Senior Researchers, Post-docs and Laboratory Managers from across Europe. The topic: difficult conversations. A popular topic for leaders, new and well seasoned.

What makes a conversation difficult? That’s partially individual, depending on your own edge. Often, however, it is the fear of triggering an emotional reaction, which holds people back. 

As the group is exploring the topic, it becomes clear that people fear their own emotions even more than the other persons’ reaction.

“What if I get angry?” 

Sad? Upset? Teary? Unreasonable? Panicky? Loud? Passive? Aggressive?

What we soon discover is that it’s not just our own emotions that are at play. We also have a need to be seen in a certain way: calm, capable, not aggressive, competent, likeable, successful, kind, friendly, (and the list goes on…).

A difficult conversation is one where  we can neither control nor predict how it goes – and how we will be able to keep up the self image we are attached to. That may pose a threat to our self-constructed identity. And that can cause risk for us.

The need to be seen as X is often paramount, and anything which might get in the way of that generates an emotional frisson within us. 

So we fall victims of our stories of risk and avoid difficult but important conversations?

Yes, and…

What if we get curious and change the story?

What if having a conversation with Y about X wouldn’t automatically result in the negative outcome you fear?`What if having a conversation with Y about X wouldn’t automatically result in the negative outcome you fear?

What if the conversation with Y got the result you were looking for?

What if you built trust and deepened your relationship by having this difficult conversation?

What if you built credibility by having this conversation?

Changing stories requires shifting perspectives. As leaders we can support others to do this. By helping those we lead to understand the perspective they are standing in, we can use our curiosity to ask open questions which might lead them to try on other perspectives. 

Leaders support those they lead to have the difficult conversations that arise in the workplace.

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

You might also like…

The goal of coaching is Self-leadership
The goal of coaching is Self-leadership

I am currently participating in a transformative learning experience, Coaching with IFS, powerfully led by Guthrie Sayen and Barti Bourgault. The programme is about discovering how to model and foster Self-leadership to create a culture of healing and awakening. The...

Safety, Parts Work, and Our Inner Leader
Safety, Parts Work, and Our Inner Leader

I have been thinking a lot about safety over the past months. Amy Edmondson has done groundbreaking work on the topic of psychological safety. And I deeply appreciate how Timothy Clark has expanded the conversation with his four levels of psychological safety and how...

Do the Work
Do the Work

“I’m an ENFP!” I was ecstatic. I’d found my Rosetta Stone. I was 15. Funnily enough, I needed more. This was just the beginning of my journey to better understanding who I was in the world, and more importantly, who I wanted to be, and also who I was supposed to be.....

Share This