How to Approach Difficult Conversations

Hongtao Hao / 2021-10-21

The following is my notes on a talk given by Dr. Shalini Nag .

More than 40 people attended this workshop. The very fact that other people also encounter difficult conversations makes me feel relieved.

  • From conflict to collaboration.

  • Conflict is not necessarily negative. It becomes negative when you don’t solve it.

  • Conflict is not necessarily disagreements. It might be simply incompatibility.

  • Don’t avoid difficult conversations.

  • Differences do not result in conflicts. Can you find a win-win solution?

  • Try to find a win-win. If you can’t, take best actions you can.

  • Focus on outcomes, not positions. Try to get the outcomes of both parties, rather than proving you are right.

  • Look at the world through others' lens.

  • Define the desired outcomes: What do you really want? Dig deeper! Be clear about what you want.

  • Many times, you think it will be a difficult conversation but it’s not from the stand point of other people.

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument:

Thomas-Kilmann Instrument, source:

Thomas-Kilmann Instrument, source:


  1. Take charge of your emotions.
  2. Define the desired outcomes.
  3. Understand and adapt your style.
  4. Use ALLIES@Work.
  5. Choose the path forward.

Allie@Works :

  1. Accept the you have blind spots.
  2. Listen to prove them right.
  • From persuasion to understanding.
  • From I want to fix you to I want to help you.
  1. Learn with curiosity. Ask why. Ask questions.
  2. Investigate possibilities.
  3. Examine your frame of reference.
  4. Synthesize and reshare. take actions.

Last modified on 2021-10-30