Difficult Conversation? Prepare Your Notes

In my previous top tip I discussed the importance of being clear on your purpose for having the difficult conversation in the first place.

Now that you have a purpose, what next?

Top Tip No.2 is “Prepare your Notes”

When faced with a difficult conversation it is usually true to say that the stakes can be high and that it is important that we are at our best. With this in mind it would therefore be madness to approach the conversation without some serious consideration to mitigate the chances of being at your worst.

Preparation is therefore vital and if nothing else have ready the specific details of the subject matter – i.e. the reasons for the difficult conversation.

Nothing will see a conversation become difficult more quickly than a vague generalisation, half-fact or woolly bit of feedback. Future top tips will build on the above by discussing ‘specific details’ and particularly the difference between Fact and Opinion.

Your specifics therefore can be your written notes, a recording of a phone call or perhaps a printed email. It would also be a good idea to consider some of the key questions that you would like to ask the other person. Writing these down will help ensure you stay on track and hopefully remember to ask.

So does that mean it is good practice to write down and prepare a detailed script?

For several reasons, absolutely not!


1. Are you are trained actor? Can you remember a detailed script?
2. Reading a detailed script will make it look like you have already reached a conclusion.

3. Conversations never run to plan so the script will soon be of no use to you.

To summarise I will refer to a version of the good old 7 P’s as this definitely applies to Difficult Conversations

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Painfully Poor Performance