If you want to change the game, change your conversations



Conversations are the most human and basic activity aiming at creating supporting relationships and creating new knowledge, new solutions through the exchange of ideas. Supporting relationship are the #1 factor in longer term success. If succeeding in your dreams matters to you, what are perceive as difficult conversations may be “the cave that you fear to enter, but holding the treasure you’re seeking”(J. Campbell)

Conversational dynamics range from toxic and dysfunctional to upheaving and insightful.

Difficult conversations lay somewhere in between – they have the potential to make or break a relationship, to stall or progress towards breakthrough solutions. Difficult conversations are loaded with emotions that take a tall on our well-being and well- functioning. They can be experienced as depleting burden or a crucible of growth.

Difficult conversations hold the potential of changing the game.

Conversations are difficult when they make you feel incomplete, inadequate, wrong. We find ourselves in difficult conversations when

  • Taken aback by other party’s words or behavior, emotional reaction overrides rational thinking
  • Getting hijacked by automatic emotional response (we are triggered)
  • The gap on values and beliefs cannot be closed enough to create trust and connection; differences in mindset hinder identifying common ground
  • Feeling attacked, judged, or despised on our integrity, core values and beliefs
  • Making a request not making clear or being clear on the need we want to satisfy
  • Providing information which is neither complete nor totally true (integrity questions)
  • Questioning the trustworthiness of the other party and of their expressed intentions
  • Promising something that we can’t satisfy, become, or deliver
  • Moralizing, talking from a defined frame of reference of what’s right and wrong
  • Making assumptions about what other people are saying or have in their mind
  • Wanting to win the argument at all costs
  • Pretending to listen and making up the story, being too busy and noisy in our head
  • Perceives dependency influences attachment on the outcomes of the conversation

Thus “difficult conversations” may happen for different reasons and in different contexts. and there is not one solution or approach to all situations. There is however a mindset and a conversational process that can facilitate the shift of conversational dynamics from difficult and depleting to generative and nurturing.

A difficult conversation, can be experienced at different levels:

  • Emotional: we feel afraid, at unease, inadequate


  • Psychological: we feel unsafe and uncertain, we do not trust the intentions of the other person


  • Neurochemical: cortisol and testosterones are produced,
  • Cognitive: our executive thinking switches to “tunnel mode” and creativity focuses on efficiency of escape strategies fight, flight, freeze or appease, the automatic defense mechanisms take the upper hand.
  • Physical: muscular lock and blood pressure create physical pain, headache, lack of energy
  • Social: being excluded or included in certain circles or social groups

When we learn how to identify what triggers this experience and become alert of these triggers, we are taking the first step towards self-mastery. The triggers may come from an external source, but they always have an internal counterpart. When we realize this, we also realize that we have the power to control our reaction.
The next step is to develop a mindset that is resourceful – agile in taking a new perspective, and resilient in reacting to triggers. This mindset give us the protection, the energy, and the permission to explore the potential of a conversation perceived as difficult. Developing a resourceful mindset is what moves the needle.
The 3rd step towards self-mastery is developing the communication skills. Bonding, partnering and influencing conversations go beyond eloquence and accuracy – and yet – “Words create worlds!” and the words we chose and use do matter. By paying attention to the “patterns” of words we apply and the meaning they imply, we can go far in shifting “difficult conversations” into wellsprings of growth.

You can learn more about approaches and techniques in the upcoming webinar: Handle & Leverage Difficult Conversations for Growth.

In this ebook I share a handful of tips from my coaching practice on how to leverage these 15 treasury traits paving your way to success and making an impact. I hope they will help you ponder your next step.