A holistic business blog by Lisa van Reeuwyk, Mastering the Art of Difficult Conversations: Five Expert Tips

Transforming Conflict into Growth: Five Tips for Successful Conversations


Don’t deny it

Taking a moment to pause before we begin a conversation is a life skill of highly successful people. I hold these words close and remember them before hopping on a free consult, entering a networking event or preparing for a client session:

Our work, our relationships & our lives succeed or fail, 1 conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship or a life, any conversation can.


Speak & listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person, it could be.


Participate as if it matters. It does.


(Excerpt from the book, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.)


I’ve been hearing from people that it’s getting much harder to have tough conversations with people. Here are five tips to support open dialogue that unlocks and opens the door to new horizons.

      1. Defy Denial

        When you deny what the other person has shared, you are essentially putting on your armour and saying let’s go! If you want a good debate, don’t deny their opinions, feelings or expertise. Denying an accusation actually reinforces it and sometimes proves it. Denying leads to debating.
      2. Re-Direct the Convo

        People say some really offensive things sometimes, don’t they? When those amber alerts start pinging in your internal GPS, think of how you can re-direct the conversation instead. Everyone has something to teach us, but when those hot button topics arise, it’s best to get curious, ask a question and steer your conversations in a new direction. 
      3. Don’t Repeat it

        As one of my favourite quotes says, Where focus goes, energy flows. If you don’t want to dig into the topic, don’t repeat it back to them. This technique is common to gain clarification; use it sparingly or not at all in your conversations.
      4. Active Listening

        When people feel deeply listened to, only then are they open to other opinions and ideas that may be contrary to their own. Too often, people simply wait to speak, but when practicing active listening you are fully present with the speaker. Considering that over 80% of all communication is non-verbal, the cues you’re giving off are impacting the tone and quality of your interactions.
      5. What do you need?

        When we lean into care, compassion and curiosity and ask a question like, “What do you need?” when someone is clearly having a tough time, transformation strikes like a lightening bolt in a tropical storm. It can be hard to be fully present when someone is talking, but listening with the same intention with which you want to be heard is a game changer when you bring the best of you to the conversation.

Remember, we don’t have to agree on all things or even close to it, in order to enjoy a meaningful relationship with someone. If you learn that someone you consider a close friend holds different values than you on some hot button topics, mutually agree to make those off limits for conversation.

If you offer free consults and want to improve those conversations, grab my free guide, Ten Proven Tips to Close Your Free Consults, Without Feeling Pushy.

Until next time, keep going and keep growing.
Lisa van Reeuwyk