Difficult Conversations


Although it can be challenging, it’s possible to navigate difficult conversations in a productive way that improves our relationships. Whether you’re someone who avoids conflict or seeks it, you can prepare ahead of time to develop a mutual resolution.

Communication steps

  1. Describe what you want. Describe in detail what you are hoping to get from the other person. Make it concrete. “I want to talk to you about how we disagreed in yesterday’s meeting”.
  2. Express your feelings with “I” statements. If you start with “You,” it often puts the other person on the defensive. “It seems like we’re not communicating well, and I feel frustrated by that.”
  3. Express your hope to resolve the issue and the positive outcomes that may result. “I think if we can work through this disagreement, we’ll be able to finalize the presentation in a way that works for both of us.”
  4. Ask about their perspective. Be open to what the other person has to say. “Can you say a bit more about how you see things?” “How are you feeling about this?”
  5. Be willing to negotiate. Meet them halfway. “Could we brainstorm some options in which both of us meet our goals?”

Helpful communication skills

  • Give your counterpart the benefit of the doubt. Assume good intentions.
  • Ask questions and be genuinely curious about the other person’s perspective. “What do you think?”, “What matters most to you?”
  • Listen carefully. Try to understand their perspective.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. Validate their perspective, even if you disagree, by summarizing it back to them.
  • Try to work on mutual goals so that both of you get what you want.

Printable version

Printable worksheet