Difficult conversations – how to nail them

15th November 2022

Difficult conversations aren’t much fun. That’s hardly surprising… they’re, well, difficult.

Fortunately, there are only two things to do, to make them as easy as possible:

  1. Script
  2. Practice

In more detail…


In advance of your difficult conversation, script the words you’ll use.

The opposite – winging it when you’re in front of the other person – only makes things harder.

My favourite ‘difficult conversation scripts’ contain two things:

  • Future – they focus on the future/solution, not the past/challenge
  • Joint – they use lots of joint words like ‘we’, not adversarial words like ‘you vs me’

For example, if you thought someone behaved poorly in a team meeting, you could either say:

"You were an idiot last week. I was embarrassed for you" (This might be true – but it won’t lead to a wonderful outcome!)


"I don’t think last week’s meeting was much fun for either of us. To ensure we enjoy next week’s meeting more, let’s agree how we can do things differently. Does that sound fair?"

This is much more likely to work. It’s future. It’s joint.


Once you’ve created your script, practise saying it out loud. At least 5-10 times.

That way, you’re already used to hearing the words come out of your mouth.

Again, the opposite – the first time you say it is when they’re there – makes it more scary.

(After all, you’ve never seen an actor go on stage and say their lines out loud for the first time in their lives. They’ve practised them – often many times – so they’re as impressive as possible).

This week, you’ll have a difficult conversation. It might be with your partner, children, boss, team, customer, supplier…

…and the best way to help you nail it is to script (future and joint) and practice it out loud.

Good luck!

Action Point

Look ahead: which conversation looks most difficult?

Invest time in scripting and practising, to give yourself the best chance of it going well for both of you.

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