Total Recall: Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations Made Simple


  • Do not use buzzwords ‘negative’, ‘confrontational’ etc

Tell people what you plain-English and factually ‘see’ them do and ‘hear’ them say rather than the buzzword conclusion you have come to about them! Eg "I notice that your voice becomes louder and you talk over me"

Before The Conversation

  • Fill in the prep template (at end of your Total Recall full handout)

Start Conversation from Third Story (Mediators Version)

  • “I wanted to talk about…..” (broad subject)
  • “I notice that…. “ (see/hear)
  • “And I’m concerned that….” (Impact/consequences)
  • “To be fair to you….” (Acknowledge their position)
  • “So, I thought we’d….” (Invite them to move things forwards with you)


  • Listen to ‘their story’, don’t interrupt and try to to understand them, acknowledge things etc
  • Ask questions to discover their ‘interests’, the underlying things of concern to them
  • ‘Normalise’ where you can so they carry on talking e.g. “I’m like that too”
  • Then tell them how you see things and your underlying interests and concerns
  • You may find that this changes what the conversation should really be about!
  • Agree problem-solving actions to make things better in the future that also address the interests you have both talked about

The full structure is available in your Total Recall handout (which you should have received separately) which includes how to deal with the five difficult personalities at work plus how to manage 'dealbreaker' habits in your team!