How To Have The Difficult Talk And Survive

How To Have The Difficult Talk And Survive

March 28, 2015 0 By April Kirkwood

Talk, Talk, Talk


We all have various conversations each day with all kinds of people.  The girl at Starbucks, the son who calls from college for money, and the friends we socialize with. That’s the easy stuff that generally flows easily without a need for manipulation or control.  It’s what makes us stay alive with a human connection that enriches our lives.


But then there are those confrontations that make us wish we had a root canal instead of sitting down for “We need to talk” kind of moment. Some of my worst include having to fire someone, breaking up, confronting the parent of a kid that bullied my child, or worse bringing issues about co-workers to my boss. 

I still feel an uneasiness when I just think of them. They are the core of many sleepless nights and more than a few regrets.

I just didn’t do it right!


Sound Familiar?

What do you do?  How do you handle it?


  1. We can try to sugar coat the dismal interaction with two positive comments before we cast the blow to their head and self-esteem.
  2. We can go full on throwing grenades hoping to get it over quickly so we can move on.

Neither work at being Diplomatic!


So, I took off my rose colored glasses that convinced me that it was ‘them’ not ‘me’ that screwed it up and went looking for ways to handle these normal confrontations with a little more grace.  As we know, conflict is part of life so we may as well get it right.  It’s not going anywhere!

So, here’s what I found.

Each difficult conversation is really three conversations in one and TIPS to survive them:


1. Your’e Wrong/ I’m right Conversation: Outcome based on perceptions of who said what, who is to blame, and who is right or wrong.

Sorry to say, no one is ever 100 percent correct.  It’s based on perspective which is based on demographics, culture, age, education, and society.

EXAMPLE: For some eating a bunny is fine.  For me, it’s wrong.


TIP: Instead of focussing on getting the facts, find out what those facts mean to person or persona involved. Shift from telling someone they are wrong to finding out how they see things differently.

Pointing the finger only creates more conflict.

2. You shouldn’t feel that way Conversation: Outcome based on how each person feels about what is being said often not outwardly discussed.  It’s as though there is a parallel dialogue going on that is often strong and sensitive.

EXAMPLE: I tell my marketing man about the cost of a publisher and my fears.  He hears that I am about to let him go and his feelings are hurt.

We all have two different dialogues going on inside of our heads. There’s the words and the thoughts in our heads.  Once again back to my example: I say I am afraid of costs.  He views it as a personal assault about his work inferring to him that he isn’t worth the cost.

TIPS: Difficult discussions are not about feelings, they are at their very core about feelings.

3.  Your Core Identify is pare of the challenged conversation: This part of all conflict conversations is about self-image or self-esteem.

EXAMPLE:  You go in for a review at your job.  The truth is, this isn’t just about your job performance, it is about YOU.


TIP: Remember the importance of the real content is what it does to another’s self-image as well as your own.


All of these conversations are happening at once and instead of blaming instead try to form an alliance in the form of positive contribution. The art of successfully having the difficult conversation is the ability to shift from persons involved to issues involved.

Conflict is a natural part of life so, my friend, it’s here to stay. Remember this if nothing else,  people never change without first feeling understand.

You feeling what I’m saying here!

Try it.  Good luck.  It’s a learned behavior but we can do it.  After all, we are all life long learners.

Love always,


April of Course





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