• Cindy and Alison

Cindy Answers, "When You Have to Have Difficult Conversations, What is a Good Approach?"

When you have to have a difficult conversation with a parent or a school staff member, what is a good approach? Difficult conversations make everyone a little nervous. Even though they are hard, they can happen in a respectful way that makes everyone feel valued. As we said in our recent podcast episode, partnership should always be the goal and that holds true when conversations are hard.

Always try to keep in mind:

Conversations should start and end with positivity. State what is going well or what you really like or enjoy. Then express a concern. Finally, conclude with an observation that lets the person know you see what is good and beneficial about their work or their parenting or child.


You are coming to the table with different perspectives. It is very likely that the person you will be speaking with has a different experience both in the past and now. We have to allow space for more than our own perspective on a situation. Even when we see things differently, we have to operate under the belief that all parties are stating their truth and there can be a place where we agree to acknowledge each other’s view even if they aren’t exactly the same.

We need to be ready to actively listen as well as talk. When we actively listen to the other person’s perspective or observation, we fully concentrate on what they are saying. We wait to formulate a response until they are done speaking, not while they are speaking. We should be able to reflect what they have said with a sentence like, “You are saying that you observed my child expressing frustration physically rather than with words.”

Our goal should be to decide what we CAN do together rather than what we cannot. When we go into conversations with an attitude of cooperation and teamwork, we can more easily work together and plan next steps regardless of the particular situation.

Remember, sometimes people need time. When we have to tell someone something that is hard to hear, we have to respect that they may need to walk away, process what we have said and then come back. It is okay to say to someone, “I can see that you may need time to think about this. Would you like time to consider it and we can meet again in a week or so?”

Copyright 2019 Cindy Terebush

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