Difficult Conversations: How to Use Them to Grow

By Cynthia Indriso '86PH of the Columbia Career Coaches Network
This post originally appeared on CynthiaIndriso.com

Direct, open and honest communication is an essential characteristic of any kind of successful relationship as well as a high performing and engaged workplace, yet it’s commonly a big challenge for many of our clients, especially when the message is "negative" and requires a change in behavior.

Here’s how you can transform your delivery of challenging messages into opportunities that motivate people to learn, change and grow.

Create a Culture of Feedback and Trust

If you want the people in your life and at work to give you feedback and be open to yours, you need to prove to them that it’s safe to do so. And the best way to do this is to learn how to do it effectively yourself – be a model for how to give and receive feedback. Here are some tips, along with a more comprehensive white paper by the Ken Blanchard Companies that has a great list of guidelines.

Leaders who are skilled at direct communication are great at being trust builders — people who know how to create trustful relationships. They create an environment where it’s easier for their people to tell them the truth – especially when the truth is "difficult" to hear and process. Here are some tips in a recent blog post, including how to repair broken trust.

Compassion: The Secret Sauce

We especially love this video clip of Daniel Goleman and Bill George talking about the role of self-compassion and compassion in helping people hear your feedback in a way that activates their motivational system – not their fear and defensiveness – and helps them learn and use it to grow:

Good Feedback is Specific, Succinct and Direct

A common mistake in giving effective feedback is not being specific enough about the change that’s needed. It’s important to think SMART goals when you’re giving feedback: Specific and Measureable, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, Trackable and Time-bound.

Shari Harley, CEO of Candid Culture and author of How to Say Anything to Anyone, has an eight-step feedback formula for giving feedback in less than two minutes.

"Let's see how I can help you grow."

It’s your leadership point of view that makes all the difference.


Cynthia Indriso is an executive coach specializing in leadership development and management strategies for business people working internationally across cultures. Certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), her expertise is concentrated in more than 25 years of international experience. See more of Indriso's bio and get her contact information here.

Learn more about the Columbia Career Coaches Network.

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