Difficult conversations are unavoidable for any leader.

Declining a request for annual leave.

Discussing salary expectations.

Managing poor performance.

Telling an employee they didn’t get the promotion.

Giving your superior or a client some feedback.

Disagreeing with a colleague on the best course of action.

You know the sort of conversations I mean. They’re complex and ‘complicated’. They can be emotionally charged. Which means they’re often uncomfortable for at least one, if not all parties concerned.

And so they’re typically the conversations we avoid having.


Because they’re so uncomfortable! Because they’re so complicated!

We fear opening a can of worms. We worry we may make a bad situation worse. We try to avoid causing conflict or upsetting anyone. We don’t want to fracture the relationship with one or more of our stakeholders.

But avoiding these conversations mean we stifle the flow of open, effective communication – the life source of any relationship.

We become closed off. We find ways to distance ourselves from that person.

Our conversations become stilted.

We stop sharing.

We stop collaborating.

And this causes frustration, uncertainty and confusion to set in amongst our team and stakeholders.

Tension and resentment start to build up.

Credibility is called into question.

Trust begins to erode and eventually dissipates altogether.

We end up fracturing the relationship we were trying to protect, regardless.

So as ‘difficult’ as these conversations may be, they are absolutely necessary if you want to maintain a positive working relationship with your stakeholders.

In fact, it is often the difficult conversations that are the ones that open your eyes to new ways of looking at things, making you a better leader.

They can foster a shared understanding and promote greater alignment and collaboration, increasing trust and even strengthening the connection between you and your stakeholders in the long run.

So instead of avoiding difficult conversations, aim to avoid difficult working relationships by embracing the power of all conversations and leaning into them wholeheartedly.