A template to use next time you need to have a difficult conversation

We’ve all been there. We know we need to have a difficult conversation, but it just feels too hard. Or maybe we have tried the same conversation before and it always ends badly. Here is a template you can use to manage the conversation. Introduce it to the other person and get their agreement to work through it with you, step by step. If things get out of hand, go back a step and try again.

  1. Only begin this process when you both feel calm and rational about the issues. (If you can’t get to this point, then consider mediation.)
  2. Agree a time to talk in a private, neutral space. Ask others to be present if you feel if will help.
  3. Choose who will go first. Person 1 takes 2-3 minutes to explain, without interruption, what the issue is for him or her and why it is important to him or her. Try not to blame or criticise the other person.
  4. After Person 1 has had their say, Person 2 should summarise back to the talker what they have heard and understood until the talker feels understood and says it is ok to move on. Person 2 remember that you are only summarising what you have heard Person 1 say, you do not have to agree with it.
  5. Swap, so that both people have been heard.
  6. Summarise on a piece of paper what the issue is and what is important to both of you.
  7. Commit to finding a solution that meets, as closely as possible, both of your needs.
  8. Brainstorm. Keep brainstorming until you reach a solution acceptable to both of you.
  9. Confirm agreement and next steps.

Polly Gavins runs Abingdon Family Mediation, a mediation service that
aims to provide a practical and effective mediation process that is delivered with kindness, respect and understanding.

If you would like to use mediation to have a difficult conversation, then call Polly on 0770 651 3496 or email polly@abingdonfamilymediation.co.uk.