Difficult Conversations and how to handle them!

Do you ever put off having those ‘difficult’ conversations?
Is it because you:

… don’t want to upset people

… find it hard to use the right words

… wonder how they will react and if you’ll cope?

Do you want a straightforward, memorable, tool to help you prepare for and handle these difficult conversations?

If so, then read on as DEBRA can help! Handling difficult conversations is one of the most challenging things you’ll have to do as a manager or leader. It requires thought, preparation and skill to get it right.

So, whether you’re about to hold your first difficult conversation or if you’ve held many before and want to improve your technique, meet…



5 easy steps to follow from the start of the conversation through to the end.

Describe the issue and the impact of the issue:

Explain that this conversation is an opportunity for each of you to have your say; it’s a discussion. Remember, you may find out something you don’t know! Explain the impact that their actions are having on the work / team.


Establish the reasons and get agreement that this is an issue:

This is a real chance to let your team member talk! Use appropriate, open, questions and listen to their responses.

Through the skilful use of open questions, try to get agreement that this is a problem. If you’re able to do this, it’s easier to work together to generate solutions.


Behaviour required:

Remind your team member what’s expected of them and what constitutes ‘acceptable’ behaviour. When someone has 'broken the rules', you should state the behaviour / standards required and ensure they understand what’s expected.

Resolve the issue:

If a problem exists, you need to discuss and agree an improvement plan. The best way to do this is to encourage them to suggest solutions to increase commitment, buy-in and motivation.

Actions to be agreed:

Ask the individual specifically what they’ll do differently and how they’re going to meet the target agreed. A great question to ask here is: “How will we know?” so that measurable targets can be agreed. It’s a good idea to let them know how you’re going to support them with their action plan. Finally, set a date to review progress and make sure you do actually follow up!

So, in 5, easy to remember steps, you’ll be well placed to handle those difficult conversations with confidence, knowing that you’ve got a structure to guide you through.

So when are you likely to need DEBRA by your side? How will she help you through this process?

You’ve read this far, so make it worth your while – take some action! Let us know how you get on and your thoughts on how DEBRA helps you.

If you’ve got any additional techniques that you’d like to share about handling these types of conversations, we’d love to hear from you – just add them into the comments box below.

Posted by Caroline Lewis

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