How to to begin a difficult conversation

Delivering bad news and managing conflict with co-workers, executives and clients is never enjoyable. Try these starters to open up a dialogue.

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But recently I was in a situation where I could no longer avoid a difficult conversation. So I did what many other writers, PR pros and corporate communicators would do: I treated the conversation as a writing assignment. What started out as a blog post about everything that I wanted to cover turned into a script where I could role-play the entire conversation.

What I discovered was that the act of writing a script helped clarify my thoughts and find the right words for the conversation. It was truly an “Aha!” moment when the solution to this long-standing problem suddenly became clear and obvious.

The most difficult part of my scripting exercise was figuring out how to start the conversation. (Which should come as no surprise, considering that most writers struggle with leads and opening lines) So I came up with several starters for my conversation, along with starters that might apply to other difficult discussions:

1. “Can we talk about something that I think will help us work better together?”

2. “If I understand you correctly, you’re trying to accomplish x, y and z. I’m wondering if there’s a different way to approach this. Perhaps we can …”

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