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Difficult Conversations

Having difficult conversations with colleagues and clients are an inevitable part of leading and managing people. This set of resources will give you a toolkit of practical ideas, approaches and communication techniques that can be drawn on in a range of situations.


Lisa Hall, Director of People at the RCVS, shares her advice on how to handle difficult conversations, with reference to tools from the bestselling book ‘Crucial Conversations’ by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.

Style Under Stress 12 Assessment

A communication skills quiz to assess your style under stress, developed by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.

What to be Mindful of and How "Fierce Conversations" Helps your Business (3.47 minute watch)

Renowned author Susan Scott gives her top three tips for engaging in ‘Fierce Conversations’ and highlights the need for leaders to get better at human connection.

Tips for how to handle difficult conversations (1.33 minute watch)

In this short video from Veterinary Money Digest, Linda Fineman, DVM, DACVIM (oncology), gives tips for handling difficult conversations with clients and team members

The secret to giving great feedback | The Way We Work, a TED series - YouTube (5.01 minute watch)

This TED talk covers a simple four step strategy for giving feedback.

Articles and blogs

Courageous conversations in veterinary medicine (5 minute read)

Colleen Best, DVM, PhD (2018), EquiManagement

This article provides key strategies to ease the stress of sharing bad news with clients and staff

From difficult to transformative – the art of handling those hard-to-have conversations | Advance HE ( (5 minute read)

Barbara Bassa, Senior Leadership Advisor, Advance HE (2019)

This blog discusses how difficult conversations can be reframed as transformative, and provides tips on preparing for a difficult conversation.

Dealing with difficult workplace conversations ( (3 minute read)

Andrew Brown (2018), People management,

An article that outlines three ways managers can approach difficult conversations.

How to give Feedback Constructively (5 minute read)

Emily Hill (2019), CMI

This article from the CMI, covers how to give constructive feedback, including how important it is to check your biases and be aware of the impact of stereotypes.

How do you effectively handle difficult feedback conversations? - CIPD Events (5 minute read)

Anna Wildman (2019), CIPD

Learn how to work through the steps in the Context, Examples, Diagnosis, Action, and Review (CEDAR) model to handle negative feedback.

Other materials

ACAS, Challenging Conversations and how to manage them (PDF)

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has put together a guidance document for managers who want to learn how to have challenging conversations with their team.

Handling difficult conversations

A collection of CMI resources on handling difficult conversations, including a guide on the 10 most difficult conversations.

A Coaching Approach to Feedback Presentation (PDF, 648 KB, 15 minute read)

Explains the benefits of using coaching in feedback conversations. Explores John Whitmore’s GROW Feedback Framework

GROW feedback framework coaching questions (PDF, 303 KB, 10 minute read)

Coaching questions to use at each stage of the GROW Feedback Framework