Lesson 2.15

Clearing The Air: Managing Tough Conversations

This topic consists of two sub-lessons. Begin with the video and key explanations below:


Key Concepts:


It’s hard to safely lean into cognitive friction if there’s something hanging in the air over your interpersonal relationship.

  • We need to clear the air of any obstacles to full engagement before we can get the most out our teams.

Before you have a difficult conversation, take some time to zero in on your goal.

  • Sometimes our goal in having a difficult conversation is to be understood. This is valid, but we need to be honest with ourselves and clear with the other person about it if that is indeed the goal.

  • Sometimes our goal is to request that someone do something. This is valid, but we need to remember that we can’t force anyone to do anything, and it’s easy to come off as demanding or threatening if we approach these conversations wrong.

  • The other most common goal of a difficult conversation is to build (or rebuild) trust. This is done by clarifying our feelings and intentions, and in many cases acknowledging our shortcomings and vulnerabilities.

Always get the “opt-in” from the person you’d like to have the hard conversation with.

  • Don’t spring a difficult discussion on someone. Give them the chance to agree to have the discussion, and they’ll be more receptive to your message than if you surprise them.

  • E.g. “Can I talk to you sometime about some concerns I have about the meeting last week?”

  • E.g. “I’d like to discuss some things about our working relationship. Do you have 30 minutes later today or tomorrow?”

  • This also gives them some time, if they want, to think about the topic so they’re more prepared, too.

The two most common kinds of air-clearing conversations are Delivering Bad News and Resolving Personal Concerns. The next two lessons will give you frameworks for addressing each.