Preparing for Difficult Conversations–ONE Tip for Having a Successful Conversation (even if you don’t win)

Preparing for Difficult Conversations–ONE Tip for Having a Successful Conversation (even if you don’t win)

Most blogs and books on preparing for difficult conversations focus on the DOing parts of preparation. But, while it’s important to know the when, where, why and who for the conversation, that’s only one small part of preparation.

There is another equally important part of preparing for a difficult conversation.

Why Do We Focus on What to DO Instead of How to BE?

Because we think that will help us control the conversation and win! But is winning the important thing here or is communicating the issue and opportunities most important?

If communication is most important, then you want to prepare how to BE during the conversation.

What do I Mean by BE?

BEing is a coaching concept that helps you be introspective and thoughtful and emotionally intelligent. BEing is what makes or breaks the conversation. How you want to BE during the conversation is really the secret sauce of a successful conversation. That’s the real preparation. Else Coit touches on this in her blog about preparation. She suggests you self-reflect to get in touch with how you feel about the situation. But, feelings aren’t enough. You have to be in charge of yourself—you have to decide how you want to BE.

How do You Plan Your BEing?

Well, think before you meet. What is your objective? Is it to win, or to communicate? Then, decide what is the best way to BE and then imagine what you will do and say in order to BE that way. Ask yourself why you want to BE that way. Is it because the person you’re talking with responds better to that way of BEing? Perhaps you want to soften your approach to difficult conversations so this new way of BEing is consistent with your new approach. I suggestion have no more than three ways of being during the conversation.

My Bias

As a conflict consultant, what I know to be true is that approaching difficult conversations BEing open works better than being aggressive. Why? Because aggression closes you to new information and to any opportunity to have reconciliation or forward movement.

But, rather than believe me, ask yourself: How was I BEing during my last difficult conversation?

For example:

Was I thoughtful and open and willing to connect? (There’s 3 ways of being that are in alignment.) How did that work? Did it help me have a successful conversation? Did I influence the person I was talking with?


Was I aggressive, dogmatic and insistent? If so, did that help me succeed? Is the person I spoke to more compliant? Am I sure? What if they agreed to my requests but they are not really behaving as I wish?

BEing is a Good Start

The practice of deciding how to BE in a conversation is one of six steps in better handling difficult conversations. For more on handling difficult conversations, read my ebook, “Stop Arguing & Start Working: 6 Steps to Being Confident, Calm and Capable During Difficult Conversations At Work.” The book is available now.

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I’ve been a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, Conflict Consultant.