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5 questions for difficult conversations

Answers for difficult conversations

Are you struggling with ‘difficult conversations’? 5 questions you’ve always wanted the answer for on difficult conversations

#1: Am I the only one to constantly feel that all I do is deal with conflict at work?

The answer is no. You are not. Did you know that in a study of employees from nine countries, the average number of hours spent per week on workplace conflict varied from 0.9 to 3.3 hours?

Most conflict involving people at work revolves around unfulfilled needs, primarily the psychological need for control, recognition, affection, and respect.

A difficult person can make you defensive, exhausted, drained, fearful, miserable, angry, unhappy. You are left with no time and no energy. The cost of resolving conflict is small relative to the high cost of leaving conflicts unresolved. Unresolved conflict can be toxic to both you and your organisation. [spp-tweet tweet=”Whether you choose to change your perspective and perception, there will always be complex people around you.”] How you choose to respond to their behaviours is ultimately up to you. ?You don?t have to give up who you are to work with a complex person. But you may just have to learn new skills and challenge yourself to do more and be more for yourself and others. Life is negotiation.

Coaching question: What opportunity is this giving me?

You don’t have to feel the way you do. My blog on ‘How to fix a work relationship gone sour‘ explores possibilities and opportunities. It’s full of practical ideas and tips. If you want more, read ‘How to resolve team conflict at work‘.

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#2: How do I prepare for a difficult conversation that I am due to have next week?

SUCCESS 1: SEE YOURSELF CLEARLY – ? Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom? (Aristotle)

One of my colleagues used to have a mirror in her office. She said that the mirror was her reminder to take a look at herself.

  • What’s your definition of success?
  • What stresses you out?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What would you like to see yourself as?
  • What can you see that can be developed in you?
  • What type of worker are you?
  • What makes you tired?

SUCCESS 2: SEE OTHERS CLEARLY ‘Always seeing something, never seeing nothing, being a photographer’ (Walter De Mulder)

[spp-tweet tweet=”When you are a leader and very busy, it is easy not to see what is around you or to make inaccurate assessment of people around you”]. Listen with your eyes and open the future.

  • What do you see in others?
  • What sort of conversations do you have with others?
  • How can they help you?
  • What would you like to borrow from others?
  • How do you get the best from people?

Coaching question: What do you do before you have a difficult conversation?

My blog ‘Choose the right pair of glasses, you are what you see‘ will help you develop optical spatial awareness.

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#3: Why do I always seem to only remember the negative comments in conversations?

When you face criticism, rejection or fear, your body produces higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking part of your brain and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviours. The result is that you become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists.

Did you know that these effects can last for 26 hours or more? This means you are magnifying the impact it has on your future behaviour. Cortisol acts like a ‘sustained-release tablet’, so the more you ruminate about your fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations on the other hand, produce a chemical reaction too. They increase the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates your ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in your prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

By being more mindful about your interactions, you can limit cortisol production and hopefully stimulate oxytocin instead.

Coaching question: How will you engage in your conversations today?

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#4: Are there any great examples of conversation that I could look at or listen to?

Yes, watch George Clooney’s character who can teach us about difficult conversations. In the film Up in the Air, George Clooney plays the role of a ‘trusted restructuring expert’. He is doing the painful job of announcing to employees that they are about to lose their job. He is joined by a more junior colleague. Each is taking a very different approach.

His more junior colleague is using logical persuasion. She is using science, data and fact.

George Clooney, on the other hand, appeals to the employee’s values. He is inquisitive and curious. He has prepared the meeting extremely well by reading the employee’s CV and by picking up a key point that might well be the turning point in the conversation. Watch the extract and tell me what you think?

Coaching question: How do you influence people to deliver difficult news?

#5: Why you are NOT the right manager for me!?

Figures from the Chartered Institute of Personal Development, a professional HR body, showed that almost one in four workers were looking to leave their jobs because of the failure of managers to engage and retain staff. The ability to inspire people to reach great heights of performance and success is a skill that managers need. Managers inspire their best work, support, and contribution. When you look from within their inspiration, you find other characteristics:

  • Passion – Sharing the passion about the vision and mission of the organisation.
  • Purpose – It’s the UNIQUE impact a manager is called to make for the benefit for others.
  • Active listening – perceived as caring and respectful.
  • Communication – keep clear, simple and frequently linked to the business goals and strategy.
  • Integrity – be impeccable and consistent. It is the foundation on which colleagues build relationships, trust, and effective interpersonal relationships.

What are the characteristics that you are looking for in a Manager for you to stay in your job? If you are planning to have a ‘career conversation’ with your manager, listen to my Vlog #15.

Have you ever had to have a difficult conversation with a colleague about underperforming, absence or workload?

If yes,’I want to work with you.

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I bet it wasn’t an easy conversation. And there are probably things you wish you’d done differently. If this sounds familiar, you need to join my Masterclass on ‘Coaching for Managing Difficult Conversations’ on Thursday 28th March at Wallacespace near St Pancras, London.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Deep neuroscience research on how you can connect with your colleagues and how you can use it to have better conversations about difficult topics.
  • Common mistakes everyone makes going into difficult conversations and how you can avoid them.
  • The six pillars of conversation (Goal setting, Feedback and Feedforward, Check-ins, Reward, Career, Exit) and how you can become a confident communicator.

You will carry out a range of exercises from masterminding with peers all the way through to role plays and simulations (based on real-life scenarios) to make sure you get the best possible outcome and that you are able to use the skills that you have learnt.


About me:?Answers for difficult conversations 9I am an Executive and Leadership Coach . I support leaders in all sectors to drive change, overcome stretched challenges, create a growth mindset through coaching. I help them build high performing teams, attract and retain top talent, and improve communication with sustainable results.

I have over 20 years + experience in the C-suite managing a £15-million budget in the public sector. Coaching is my passion. I have coached and developed high performing teams as an educator around the world to over 25,000 students and 5,000 educators. I have driven radical change and can help you do the same through coaching.

I am proud that all my Masterclasses have been accredited by the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC). This means you can claim your 6 hours CPD training.

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My ‘Coaching for Managing Difficult Conversations Masterclass’ is for you if:– You are a leader who wants a confidential space to reflect and to share challenges and ideas- You would like to become more confident at mastering difficult conversations

– You are ready to focus on your goals and grow faster than ever in 2019!

My ‘Coaching for Managing Difficult Conversations Masterclass isn’t for you if:
– You are not open to learning new ways of resolving potential conflict
– You are not ready to commit to developing yourself and your team(s).

Want to join us? DM me if you’ve got any questions or email me at

Any questions? Let’s talk. Book a slot on my online calendar.

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