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Can you imagine a conversation where you have to …

… tell someone their behaviour wasn’t acceptable and you don’t want it repeated? One where you have to ‘lay down the law’ so to speak?

… get someone to choose one of the options you’ve prepared for them, but they won’t listen? Where they keep going off on tangents and are ‘all over the place’? Where they seem more interested in having an argument than making a decision?

… speak up and state your case to your manager about a serious work problem? One that’s affecting staff morale and is their responsibility to help fix? But where experience has shown they’re likely to talk over you and blame you and the other staff?

… talk to someone about something that’s likely to be embarrassing and upsetting – for you, the other person and maybe others as well? Like where you have to talk to a staff member about their personal hygiene? Or where you have to tell your elderly mother she needs to look at saying goodbye to her home and going into an aged-care facility?

Well, you probably can because …

… these sorts of conversations are a part of life. We wish they weren’t, but they are. We wish we didn’t have to have them but we do.

We can find it tough to think about having them. We can find it tough to get a great outcome when we’re having one. And sometimes, even though we’ve handled them well, we can find it tough dealing with the aftermath. So it’s no wonder these sorts of conversations are usually referred to as Tough Conversations.

Anyway, there are four main types of Tough Conversations. And …

…they’re typified by the four broad descriptions of conversations above. But for convenience, let’s just  refer to the four types as those where:

  1. You have to ‘talk tough’;
  2. It’s tough to keep focussed;
  3. It’s tough speaking up and dealing with the comebacks; and
  4. It’s tough coping with the emotions.

But we need to remember something. And it’s this.

The four main types of Tough Conversations are fundamentally different. And they need to be treated that way. They require different strategies to plan for them, to conduct them and to follow them up.

Putting them together under the one heading can be convenient but it can also be dangerous. After all, we’re busy. And we have heaps of things to think about. So we can easily forget how different they are. It means we can fail to plan, implement and follow-up in the best possible way. So we end up doing ourselves a disservice and, perhaps more importantly, we do those we’re trying to help a disservice as well.

So my advice is simple.

Always think about which type of Tough Conversation you’ve got. And plan accordingly.

Until next time, all the very best.

Mark McPherson.


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How to deal with people who are poorly behaved and difficult: a list of strategies.   Click here.

Mark’s list of the top strategies for dealing with poorly behaved and difficult people is straightforward and down-to-earth.
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52 types of difficult people: an annotated list.   Click here.

There are 52 types of poorly behaved and difficult people. And for convenience, Mark’s produced an annotated list of them.
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All the very best and have a fabulous day,


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