how to have the courage for difficult conversations

Get the courage you need to tackle life-changing conversations


If you could have a conversation that would change your life, who would it be with? Your partner, a colleague, your boss, a neighbour? And if you found a way to talk, what difference would your Big Conversation make? Would it help to clear the air, heal a hurt or renew a relationship?

Author and Leadership Development Consultant Sarah Rozenthuler believes that conversation is pivotal in our lives, yet many of us are holding back from talking. We fear upsetting other people, losing our job or damaging the love we have. In her book Life-changing Conversations, Sarah shares how to have that conversation, leave your baggage behind and move forward in your life.

We are living in times of great change – technologically, socially and financially. Many of us are experiencing upheavals that we never could have anticipated even a short while ago. Whether we have to step into a new arena of work, draw a line under a relationship or uproot from our home, we have to roll with the punches as never before.

In the midst of this turmoil, the need for heart-to-heart, human-to-human encounters is becoming ever more pressing. As we hurtle toward a future full of unknowns, many of us feel increasingly disorientated. With tomorrow’s technology arriving before we’ve even mastered today’s, we can feel isolated behind our computer screens, haunted by the conversations we’re not having.

Navigating these uncharted waters calls for a new set of capacities. We need an expanded sense of self, new skills and bridge-building tools to reconnect with each other.


“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

Nelson Mandela


6 steps to find up your courage for difficult conversations


We all have courage. Rather than acquiring it, we need to cultivate it. Just as an athlete strengthens his or her muscles ready to run a marathon, the more we practise being courageous, the easier it becomes.

Courage is not bravado or recklessness. A courageous conversation means speaking from the heart, being sensitive to the other person and being willing to listen. All of this takes guts. The following steps will help you to reach beyond your comfort zone and talk:


1. Access your courage

Look back at the times in your life when you’ve shown some strength. Identify what helped you in the past, to see what strategies you can apply to your current situation.


2. Name your fears

Take a closer look at what’s making you anxious. Be specific. Identify what the fear is – for example, it might be of rejection, loss or pain. Become aware of how your fears become smaller when you understand them.


3. Weigh it up

Think through the risks and benefits of having the conversation and staying silent. Let yourself sleep on the decision. Become clear about your reasons for talking – or not talking.


4. Build a bridge

Reflect on how you can “meet” the other person where they are. An introvert will benefit from time to gather their thoughts before speaking. An extravert needs to talk to work out what they think. Flex your style to adapt to theirs.


5. Let your heart speak

Take some quiet time to go within. Hear what the courageous part of you has to say. Listen to this voice of wisdom inside. Ask questions and let it speak without judging or rejecting. Embrace the messages that it brings.


6. Take action

Decide what your next move is, set a deadline and then do it. Ask someone to check with you later that you’ve done it. Use the power of your imagination to visualize yourself taking action in the way you’d like.


Whatever the form of the particular challenge we face we can equip ourselves to ride these shockwaves of change. We can learn to have Life-changing Conversations.

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