Learning how to manage difficult conversations in business settings constructively with open dialogue when emotions run high can be challenging and uncomfortable for many people; as a result, these important conversations are often mishandled or avoided altogether, which benefits no one. The Courageous Conversations workshop focuses on building the skills necessary for engaging in difficult conversations with others while maintaining the integrity of the relationship and achieving win-win outcomes for everyone.

About Courageous Conversations For Leaders And Individuals

Leaders and individual contributors alike undoubtedly find themselves in situations where they need the ability to be candid and carry out constructive conversations with others. These situations generally involve people with differing goals, perspectives, and interests and occur in all kinds of work relationships. Developing the ability to effectively communicate in these challenging situations leads to greater satisfaction in relationships, team culture, performance, and results. The Courageous Conversations workshop helps participants learn the skills they need to communicate with candor, particularly when engaging in difficult conversations about issues like the following:

  • When ideas are met with continuous resistance.
  • When there is a lack of follow-through on commitments.
  • When uncomfortable situations aren’t being addressed.
  • When problems remain unresolved.

By learning to actively bring issues to the surface and testing the thinking and logic inherent in differing points of view, participants can tackle problems and discuss issues that may otherwise go unaddressed and unresolved. The Courageous Conversations conversations workshop is a rigorous, skill-based approach to developing interpersonal-communication competencies. The concepts and difficult conversations exercises presented are based on a tested methodology and are backed by ongoing research.

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Objectives and Outcomes

Participants develop and learn how to apply a number of critical competencies during the Courageous Conversations training workshop that are practical and immediately applicable on the job:

  • Identify interpersonal situations that they find problematic and recognize why their best efforts to deal with these situations are often ineffective.
  • Establish conditions that will enable people to act with high levels of candor, respect, and responsibility when they encounter difficult, complex issues.
  • Be direct but not overbearing.
  • Minimize destructive placement of blame when dealing with tough problems and issues, and keep people focused on the relevant issues.
  • Develop precise questions to conduct a skillful conversation.
  • Engage in robust conversations with people in higher positions of authority so that critical, bottom-up communication remains open and productive.

Our Approach

The course design is built on fundamental adult-learning principles and rigorous social science research covering a 40 year span: Participants not only learn the concepts, skills, and tools for engaging in difficult conversations, they also get extensive practice applying the methods to their own most-pressing organizational problems. Our book, Candor: How to Have Courageous Conversations When It Really Matters, provides the foundation for the program. The workshop also gives participants opportunities to explore, diagnose, and develop solutions to the issues and dilemmas they bring to the learning experience. Using this approach, the course becomes more than just an academic program—it becomes a learning laboratory where skills are developed and real-life issues are addressed.

“Some people have a real inner fear of examining their operating principles and what they are really trying to accomplish.”

~ Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with other.”

~ Anthony Robbins

“Courageous conversations give us an opportunity to provide awareness to employees of the impact their behavior is having on success.”

~ Tony I. Herrera, Ed.D.
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Delivery Options

In order to meet the specific needs of each client we partner with and make the most of the learning and development investment, CMOE offers programs in the following formats and lengths:

Instructor-led training (delivered onsite by a CMOE subject matter expert/facilitator)

Digital learning program (self-paced or live)

Blended and layered solution (combining instructor-led training and digital learning)

Train the trainer services (certifying internal trainers in CMOE’s world-class programs)

Curriculum integration (deliver the topic in conjunction with another topic or event or build it into a development curriculum)

4-16 hours (8 hours preferred) for instructor-led variable for digital learning

Contact a CMOE Client Services Specialist to discuss a targeted solution that is right for your organization.

Looking for an online approach?

Learn More About Our Personalized eLearning Programs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

A Courageous Conversation is a meaningful, candid, and clear discussion about a very important problem or issue—especially one that we may feel reluctant to talk about.
Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is choosing to act in spite of fear. When you approach these conversations using a tested framework, it will enhance your courage by giving you confidence that the conversation will result in a positive outcome.

The goal of a successful Courageous Conversation is not to appear unafraid by being aggressive or brazen when having uncomfortable conversations. Instead, you will use a disciplined, structured approach to manage the discomfort of all parties when having vital discussions.

The most important aspect of a Courageous Conversation is preparation. You must first commit to using effective conversational skills and avoiding destructive behaviors, which may include minimizing, debating, controlling, competing, attacking, and avoiding.

Then, begin the conversation by talking with someone face-to-face when possible. Commit to listening actively in order to learn what the other person thinks. And be scrupulously polite, saying “please,” “thank you,” and so on.

Finally, be truthful, and start by explaining the big-picture situation as you see it. State what you need and ask for what you want, but also be willing to receive feedback by being open to the other person’s perspective and solutions. In fact, people feel more ownership of proposed actions when they contribute to them.

You can either set an appointment for a sensitive conversation or just drop by and start it. Either way, don’t try to start by building rapport, such as chatting about the family or making other small talk. Instead, be up front with the other party by saying, “I have a difficult topic to discuss with you” or something similar.

As you begin, address the sensitive nature of the topic. As you define the problem, avoid blame or personal attacks. Focus on solving the problem together by asking the other person for feedback and help.

Remember, when sensitive issues must be discussed, emotions can run high. Be prepared to follow Courageous Conversations guidelines while also being willing to change your conversational plan. Strive to hear and respect the other person’s point of view as much as your own—and without trying to prove the other party wrong.

When we anticipate that a conversation will be challenging, yet we know someone needs direct feedback or coaching, we naturally may want to avoid it. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable, make someone feel bad, or be thought of in a negative way.

These types of conversations often seem difficult:

  • Asserting your point of view about an important issue
  • Telling employees they have not delivered results they are responsible for
  • Delivering performance feedback to employees who need to hear it but seem to reject it
  • Bringing up an uncomfortable issue that has been avoided for some time
  • Revisiting a problem you have previously tried to resolve
  • Expressing good ideas that have been consistently resisted
  • Speaking to people who have badly misunderstood you before
  • Discussing controversial issues
  • Talking about a hidden mindset, attitude, or paradigm

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