Difficult Conversations

by Barbara Buffton

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Other topics

There are many topics in that have some relevance to difficult conversations at work, but here are a few of the most appropriate:


This topic has a section on ‘Basic Skills: how to build rapport’ which supplements the information presented here.


The page on ‘The barriers to assertiveness’ has some useful information on how to become more assertive, which could help in difficult conversations.

Bullying and Harassment

This topic is helpful if you are wondering whether or not to have ‘that’ conversation. Check out in particular:

  • The consequences of inaction
  • Handling allegations of bullying and harassment.

Solutions Focus Approach

The six principles of this approach and the chapter on Performance conversations have relevance to difficult conversations.

Emotional Intelligence

Difficult conversations require you to have a certain degree of empathy with others.

However, if you are not aware of your own emotions, you will not be able to read the emotions of others. This topic has very useful sections on Empathy and how to improve it.


There is lots and lots of good stuff in this topic that is relevant, for example, if you want to increase your knowledge of:

  • Building rapport
  • Managing your state
  • Goal setting
  • Anchoring (state management).


Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high

Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler, published by McGraw-Hill Education (US), 2011, 288 pages

It’s very practical, easy to follow, and breaks down the reasons why these conversations are so uncomfortable and how to feel less anxious.

Difficult conversations: how to discuss what matters most

Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, published by Penguin, 2000, 250 pages

This is a short, practical guide on how to talk about ‘what matters most’ – even when the subject is really, really uncomfortable.

The seven habits of highly effective people

Stephen R Covey, published by Free Press, 2004, 384 pages

The habits are applicable to having successful conflict conversations, both at home and at work.


You can also contact the author directly: Barbara Buffton