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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Managing Difficult Conversations with Coaching

How you manage a difficult conversation at work can have a lasting impact beyond the immediate conclusion of that conversation; a shift in working relationships, a reputation built on how you deal with these things and the motivation and engagement of the employee thereafter.

In my coaching and development work I focus on the need to better understand ourselves in order to understand others and manage the situations we find ourselves in, enabling us to:

  • Handle ourselves differently during these tense times
  • Read the signs of developing situations, intervene and diffuse early
  • Remove the emotion by focussing on the factual, and Ask inquisitive questions to better understand the situation from the other’s perspective.

A key thing to remember in these situations is that opinion is not fact, opinion is owned by that individual and opinion is absolutely right for that individual at that time. Why is this important to appreciate? Because during times of conflict we can become preoccupied with disagreeing with someone who has a different opinion to ours to the point that we can miss the underlying messages driving the conflict in the first place.

If you are involved in the conflict yourself, stop, take a breath and ask yourself these questions, be honest with yourself in your answers:

  • Is this having an impact on the team, the company, an individual’s effectiveness and productivity? If yes, then it needs dealing with.
  • What is your role in this situation? Are you creating the conflict or keeping it going?
  • In resolving the conflict, you may need to change your perspective, are you prepared to do this?
  • What is the true, factual, element to this conflict, or is there a personal aspect?
  • What might the situation look like from the other person’s point of view?

Choose your battles, what will you hope to gain by pursuing this? What could you lose?

If you are the manager intervening in a conflict between others, here are some of the most useful questions you can use to coach those involved and help drive an objective conversation about it:

  • “Tell me how this has affected you.” Encourage everyone involved to share this, it moves a focus onto the working relationship and helps to identify what the triggers were in the first place, which in turn helps to avoid these in to the future.
  • “What would you like to have happen?” and “what does this look like?” This shifts thinking and behaviour to the positive, focussing on what they do want instead of what they don’t.
  • “What would it take for us to move on? How do we do that?” Bringing the ‘we’ into finding a solution is moving forward, reassuring that you will all work on a resolution together. Also, when ideas for a resolution are drawn from individuals, and these are then implemented, there is a greater sense of commitment and involvement, rather than having a way forward imposed upon them.
  • “What is most important to you?” Enabling you to get to the bottom of the real issues behind the conflict.
  • “What else?” Always good questions to ask until you feel they have shared everything they need or want to.


This is a Guest Blog by Natalie Watkins of NJW Coaching & Development who partners individuals and groups, empowering them to become the professionals they aspire to be through coaching, bespoke designed and delivered training solutions and Insights Discovery Personal Profiling. Get in touch by calling 07798 932571 or emailing info@nataliejwatkins.co.uk