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How to Be Your Best Self During Difficult Conversations


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"You have one mouth and two ears, use them proportionately." 

I love this saying by Judge Judy. It is a quick reminder to ourselves that, yes, we are equipped to ‘listen’.

What I have discovered as an executive coach to high-achievers, is that by effectively listening to others especially during contentious conversations, you can connect with the other person in a meaningful way, stick to the facts and avoid getting dragged into the triggering emotions of a difficult conversation.

I get it, it’s easy in concept yet difficult in execution, but one thing you’ll come to discover over time, is that it takes practice!

Whether it is the presidential election, a contentious conversation with your boss, colleague, parent, friend, significant other, your ability to gain self-mastery of navigating difficult conversations is an essential skill in your pursuit of your executive ambitions. 

Enjoy today’s interview with Robyn Hatcher, a communications expert and author of Standing Ovation Presentations, a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, one-on-one coach and consultant and Founder/Owner of SpeakEtc. She’s also a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and an Everything DiSC® partner.

00:28 Coach Mo: What makes some conversations difficult?

A: When we’re talking about difficult, let’s talk about what we mean by difficult? Like how would you define a difficult conversation? 

01:22   Coach Mo: Working with professionals so in the workplace, it seems like scenarios where two people are just not getting along so conversations are difficult.

A: What makes communication difficult is I believe it’s two things:

  1. we haven’t recognized that we have completely different communication styles
  2. listening skills and it’s the fact that they speak a different language or they hear a different language

05:19: Coach Mo: Thinking about the factor of time, what role does time play as you’re working through difficult conversations?

A: If you’re in this emotional state and you have all this judgement, it’s perfectly okay to say, “Can we come back to this after 5 minutes or tomorrow? It is really important and I want to say to you but right now it’s not the best time.” You don’t have to say that you’re so angry or you’re so frustrated at the moment. The other thing is if it’s something critical, what you want to do is to take those really deep belly breaths. Take a deep breath in the middle of a conversation and pause and then let it out slowly to lower the emotional impact. You do want to be in the best emotional state in order to have those conversations but you need to do it in a timely way so that not too much time has gone by and it’s not too late. The other trick you want to do is to name the emotion in the moment.

13:59 Coach Mo: What other tips do you have for helping individuals navigate difficult conversations?

          A: One of these is listening. Simplest way to think about listening is in three steps.

  • listening to win
  • listening to fix
  • listen to learn

16:40 Coach Mo: What are some examples when you think of those communication styles?

          A: I broke it down to 6 different needs of the other person. 

  1. Their need to be seen as  important
  2. Their need for independence
  3. Their need to feel connected
  4. Their need to be useful
  5. Their  need for Inclusion
  6. Their need for clarity

24:17 Coach Mo: Final thoughts for those who are looking to navigate difficult conversations in the workplace?

          A: I do believe that becoming self-aware and building your own confidence is a really critical part of this. It’s really critical to work on your personal brand, in addition to working on all of these communications skills. knowing the value that you present in being able to communicate is going to put you in a whole other place so that people understand you better and you understand yourself better. And so, communications are going to be easier. 


Three key things Robyn shared that really stand out for  me: 

  1. The brain is wired to protect us and those natural triggers related to feeling threatened are innate and we must be deliberate in how to work through these in a productive way. 
  2. The six needs when making meaningful connections with others and 
  3. Consider how to use the factor of time to support you during difficult conversations

Segment: Coach Mo Knows


  1. If you’re ready to get seen, get heard and get ahead, join Robyn’s exclusive Communication workout group! 

First 10 people to reach out to her will receive a 25% discount off of the annual membership. Email Robyn at [email protected]

  1. Connect: Robyn Hatcher on LinkedIn:

Coaching Question:

What is your plan for gaining clarity of your communications style and understanding your communications ‘need’ as identified by Robyn in today’s podcast?


"Seek first to understand, then to be understood". 

~Stephen Covey author of  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


  1. William Ury's work including Power of a Positive No
  2. Prepare for conversations with stakes are high: Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
  3. Robyn Hatcher’s book Standing Ovation Presentations 8
  4. Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results, Judith Glaser

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