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Conscious Conversations

Tips for Successful Conversations

(they don’t have to be difficult anymore!)

Change Your Mindset

Rather than getting worked up beforehand, change your mindset. Think of it as just another normal office conversation. You should assume that the meeting will go well. Go in with a confident attitude and get to the point. By approaching the situation positively, the energy you bring will also be positive.



Some people put off having the conversation because they don't know how to start. Being direct and setting up a meeting is the authentic and respectful approach. You don't want to ambush people by surprising them with a "chat" out of the blue.


Consider Perspectives

Ask yourself two questions: “What is the problem? And, what does the other person think is the problem?” If you aren’t sure of the other person’s viewpoint, acknowledge that you don’t know and ask. Express your interest in understanding how the other person feels, and take time to process the other person’s words and tone. Once you hear it, look for overlap between your point of view and your counterpart’s.

Choose the Right Moment


Timing can make all the difference in someone’s receptiveness to engage in this type of discussion and not get defensive. Be thoughtful about when to initiate, making sure that:

  • You have sufficient time to talk and won’t get rushed or cut off

  • Distractions are minimized

  • Your partner in the discussion isn’t tired, stressed, or emotionally triggered

  • You both have enough energy “in the tank” – That probably means not attempting these discussions at the end of the day

  • The setting is conducive to a casual, partnership-like dynamic rather than a formal and hierarchical one


Have a Goal in Mind

Going into a difficult conversation without a goal can make it even more challenging. A clear objective can help you stay focused, save time and effort, reduce stress and anxiety, improve communication, and promote mutual understanding.



If you listen to what the other person is saying, you're more likely to address the right issues and the conversation always ends up being better.


Be Clear About the Issue

“What exactly is the behavior that is causing the problem?” and “What is the impact that the behavior is having on you, the team or the organization?” You need to reach clarity for yourself so you can articulate the issue in two or three succinct statements. If not, you risk going off on a tangent during the conversation.

Avoid Emotional Language


Present your feelings as an unintended consequence that you’d like to avoid, and ask for their help in avoiding it. To do this, you may need to take note of your own feelings before you have the conversation. Try to detect any antagonism, or any eagerness to defend yourself; be aware of feeling angry at the other person. Before you meet, work out some ways to express these feelings in a neutral, non-blaming manner.


Manage Emotions

Your goal is to have the conversation in an even tone and keep it professional. This technique is especially important when the meeting is with someone you work closely with. It can help if you look at things from a fact-based standpoint. When emotions start to take over, remind yourself that the more in control you are, the better you'll be able to communicate the message.

Phrase Requests Toward the Positive


Describe the changes you'd like to make, rather than simply complaining about the problem you've noticed.


Brainstorm Solutions

You may come to the conversation with an end goal in mind. Yet, to make the most of the discussion, brainstorm a plan for how to move forward together. The process might surface stronger solutions to the problem or help you reach a better understanding. By making the difficult conversation a collaborative one, you can both leave knowing you did your best to reach a resolutions

Follow Up


Close out your conversation by making commitments to action and confirming the accountabilities and delivery dates for those commitments. Make a point to follow up personally, where possible, with those involved to thank them for their contributions and to reassert your commitment to change and action.



Finally, once the hard part is over, learn whatever you can from the discussion by asking questions like, “What went well?” and, “What could be improved next time?” Reflecting on each meeting provides an opportunity for growth and improvement that only improves effective communication in future conversations.


Some openers for successful, conscious conversations include:

  • “I’d like to talk about _____________.  I think we may have different ideas about how to ________________.”

  • “I’ve noticed a recurring conversation (conflict, disagreement, problem) we seem to have. I’d like to talk about why that happens.”

  • “I need to talk to you about something important.”

  • “I want to share my thoughts and feelings with you.”

  • “I want to make sure we are on the same page.”

  • “I value our relationship and need to clear the air.”

  • “I’d like to discuss our next steps.”

  • “I’m feeling uncomfortable about something, and it’s been weighing on me lately.”

  • “I’d like to talk to you in private.”

  • “This is so awkward to bring up, but because I care so much about you, I want to talk about this.”

Compiled by Kristy Richards,
Family and Community Engagement Coordinator


Resources for more learning:

10 Tips for Holding Difficult Conversations at Work - WellRight

5 Steps for Tackling Difficult Conversations - The Center for Creative Leadership

5 Ways To Go From A Scarcity To Abundance Mindset - The Corporate Escape Artist

Holding Difficult Conversations: Tips For Leaders - Forbes

How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work - Harvard Business Review