How To: Speaking The Unpleasant and Painful Truth


“Leadership means speaking all the truth – sometimes the unpleasant and painful truth” – John Maxwell

I posted this quote a few days ago to various social media platforms, with a suggestion to readers to have the difficult conversation they may be putting off. I stated having these conversations takes courage, preparation and patience but when done well, can make a profound difference.

In the spirit of providing practical recommendations for action, I offer you some bullet points on preparing for the difficult conversation. . Planning is an essentiapeople talking 2l step and should be completed before delivery. Consider these points:

  • Begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey’s #2 Habit is tried and true. Consider what a successful outcome of the conversation looks like to you and the person on the receiving end.
  • Create safety. Doing so will keep the defense of the recipient down and allow them to hear you. Empathize with them or remind them of the relationship you share. Your body language, tone and inflection needs to remain non-threatening. We all know, “it’s not what we say but how we say it”.
  • Use “I” statements and remain objective.  For example: I’ve noticed, I observed or I am concerned. Avoid generalizations like “always and never:” and give specifics using dates, times, places or events.
  • Remind them of the why. The recipient may need to be reminded why your topic matters, not only to you, but why it matters to them. Reasons vary: customer satisfaction, maintaining relationships, demonstrating leadership, quality assurance or safety to name a few.
  • Ask them for what you need. We cannot expect people to know what we need, we must make a request.  Be prepared to have dialog around this, make sure they have the necessary understanding, tools and resources to meet your request. If they cannot meet your request, what can they do? Come to an agreement. And remember, you are making a request, not a demand.
  • End with encouragement. Plan to close the conversation with encouragement for the future, stressing common ground and outcomes.

This list is just a peak into the art of delivering difficult conversations. If you would like more information on how Transform Consulting can help you, or someone you know, please contact us today!