The One Awesome Question To Use To Begin A Difficult Conversation

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Here’s a video interview with Dave Van Belle, CEO of Van Belle Nurseries.  He tells us about the steps that he’s taken to build a great culture in his business!  Here’s a link to the Star Chart tool that he refers to in the interview:


And now, on today’s tip:

We all hate difficult conversations and use lots of delaying tactics to keep from having them.

We put it off for a week or two, and finally sit with the person hoping they’ll bring it up and we won’t have to address it.  We ask, “So, how did you feel about that meeting?”

We long for them to fall on their sword and confess it on their own and see their wrongdoing and even prescribe themselves the solution.  Then we won’t have to give the feedback!  Perfect!

Occasionally the chicken out method works, but most often not.

So, instead try this:  Sit down and get right to the point.


I see a behavior that’s getting in your way.  Are you in a good place to hear about it right now?

Asking this question this way does two things beyond not wasting everyone’s time: (in itself a huge win!)

It shows you’re being honest and can be trusted

People wonder if you’re telling the whole truth or holding something back.  Now they know you’re a trustworthy person, even if they know it’s not a happy conversation.

It allows the person to opt out

What if they just got a call that their child was rushed to the hospital?  What if they’ve had a frantic morning and aren’t in a place for feedback.  They can say so and opt out.  It’s a genuine question.

Of course, the follow up question to that is, “So when can we discuss it?”

Get it over with!  Don’t let it linger!

Broken legs don’t get better on their own.  Healing requires the intervention of someone who really cares and is also willing to cause short term discomfort in exchange for long term health and success.

When they win, you win!

Getting ahead is about getting started!

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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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