A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Difficult Conversations

For the past several months, I have been presenting what my client is calling “leadership roundtable” courses.  Each month, they identify a relevant topic and ask me to develop content accordingly.  I then present it, facilitate active discussion around the topic, and then wrap it all up in a neat little bow.

Today’s topic was “difficult conversations.”

I offered information on why people avoid these types of situations, what pitfalls they are likely to fall into, and some pragmatic advice on how to avoid the pitfalls or, when necessary, crawl out of them.  I finished the presentation with what I consider some good tips and reminders and then opened it all up for small group discussion.


In order for me to wrap up the discussions and tie them all back to the content, I must spy/loiter during the group work.  It was during this time that I heard something all too familiar; a gentleman’s story could have been my own.


Hearing him was like peering through a window only to find a mirror.


This man spoke of his lack of willingness or ability to be assertive about his needs, thoughts, concerns and instead, defaulted to passive aggressive behavior. Damn if he wasn’t offering up a few examples in which I could have played a leading role.


Full disclosure…right here, right now.

When it comes to dealing with difficult conversations, I often “open the door” to an issue but I don’t typically follow through or otherwise “enter the room.”

Instead, I throw out the bait, back off and see if the other person will continue the conversation.  That is passive behavior.  But wait, being the overachiever I am, I take it one step further.  If the other person doesn’t take the bait, I hold it against them.  That, my dear reader, is passive aggressive behavior.


I’m a gem, aren’t I?

Hearing this man’s story and hearing his peers engage in thoughtful discussion about their thoughts/perceptions was a big wake up call to me.

I have been selfish, manipulative and incredibly unfair.


And I was blind to it!
Passive Aggressive?  Me?


I’ve always reported I was no-nonsense.

If asked, I’d be the first to tell you I often assert my needs.

“What you see is what you get” has always been my mantra.

Authenticity…that’s me!



What a crock!



I taught the class today, but it was me who learned the most.

When it comes to difficult conversations, I learned the hardest ones are the ones you have with yourself.


I learned today that admitting a vulnerability is hard, but required for growth.


I learned today that I have much to change if I truly want to be authentic.


Perhaps I’ll start with practicing what I preach.




ChangeCommunicationsDifficult ConversationsEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsFairnessGood FaithHuman ResourcesLeadershipPerformance ManagementResolutionWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • September 20, 2013

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