Preparing for a Difficult Conversation

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BetterUp Studios

6 min


To build up your energy for facing a tough talk, equip yourself with an invaluable resource: self-awareness. A bit of preparatory reflection can take you far.

Begin with these questions:

  • What do you want? What do they want?
  • How do you usually react to the other person? Might they react similarly?
  • What are your buttons that are ready to be pushed surrounding this topic or this person?
  • What’s your personal temperature? Foregoing an actual thermometer, how might your current disposition shape the conversation?
  • Up to this point, how have each of you contributed to this situation? Have you owned and expressed this to the other person?
  • Are you able to approach this conversation without blame or ego, and instead focus on solutions?
  • What’s your body language saying about you right now?

Preparing for the conversation

Once you’ve squared your pre-discussion awareness, you can figure out a thoughtful way to open your conversation. Keep it soft and request the other person’s assistance, guidance, or perspective. Make sure there is plenty of time for both parties and don’t rush things; both of these strategies will keep the other person from feeling cornered or unprepared.

The difficult conversation is completed when both you and the other person have had enough time to express yourselves and feel heard. You can double-check this by asking something along the lines of “Are we good?”

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