Launching Tough Talk: 10 Tips for Disarming Difficult Conversations

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Wed, Apr 30, 2014

cc tough talk party 003BAt our book launch party last week, we all had a great time! We invited our guests to vote on their most favorite quote we had incorporated in the book, TOUGH TALK. Some of them included:

Yogi BerraIt was impossible to get a conversation going, everyone was talking too much.

Lou HoltzLife is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Kouzes & PosnerSensitivity to others is no trivial skill; rather, it is a truly precious human ability. But it isn’t complex: it requires receptiveness to other people and a willingness to listen.

George Bernard ShawThe single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Susan ScottThe truth will set you free – but first it may thoroughly irritate you.

And the one that was THE most popular was:

Eleanor Roosevelt – You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you must stop and look fear in the face.cc tough talk party 001B

Which speaks to one of the underlying causes for our habitual delay in tackling what we perceive to be a tough conversation: FEAR. We are fearful of the other person’s response; we are fearful of looking stupid; we are fearful that we will make it worse.

We have found – amongst ourselves at Clearwater and in working with our clients – that courage and confidence come from preparation and insight about one’s own biases and propensities. As Dan Myers, CEO of Alimera, said in his foreword to the book, “Tough talk does not need to imply uncomfortable confrontation… A calm confidence usually disarms the screamer.” And the way to build confidence is to prepare.

TOUGH TALK Tip #10:  Be Prepared

  • Know Your Audience – are they aware of the situation? What is their work style or profile? What is the best way to approach them – are they more action-oriented or thoughtful? Do they tend toward more engagement with people or with data? What does s/he value? What is your organizational relationship to this person and how will that impact your approach?
  • Know Yourself – how challenging is this conversation going to be for you? The more challenging, the more preparation is needed. How important is it to you? The more important, the more likely you are to take things personally or to procrastinate. Knowing that, what is a great way for you to neutralize your judgments and high emotions, which may get in the way of a resolution?
  • Describe the Situation – using factual terms (avoiding “always” and “never”), briefly summarize the situation. Is this a common? Avoid – “if only you would …”
  • Choose a Direction – what is an ideal outcome for both of you? Is your motivation to prove them wrong and yourself right? To clear the air? Or to find resolution?

cc_tough_talk_book_partyWe encourage you to stop delaying and start shifting the patterns that keep cultures and careers stuck.

Ben FranklinBy failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Prepare for Difficult Conversations Worksheet

Topics: difficult conversations, tough talk

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