Comms Lab: The Strong Finish

Comms Lab: Episode 5

How to Finish well in any Difficult Conversation

Getting started in a difficult conversation, is at least half the battle.

That’s why, in Episode 4 ‘The Good Start‘ we covered some evidence-based strategies for doing this well.

But what a shame it would be to ace the start, only to lose our way in the middle… and crash and burn at the end.

Fortunately, the communication skills literature again comes to our rescue.

In this video, I share what I’ve found to be the 3 most valuable strategies for navigating the back half of any difficult conversation.

Whether it’s a process of shared decision-making, providing difficult feedback or breaking bad news, the principles are entirely transferable.

I also touch on a specific communication skill that I’ve found to be essential for rapidly building trust, even in the context of heightened emotions.

Plus, Gatsby is back for more of the action:)

0:34 – Gather Before You Give
0:54 – Open vs Closed Questions
2:08 – Aim to Establish a Sufficiently Shared Understanding
4:14 – Summarising Back: “Steel Manning”
6:00 – Always Agree on a Plan


Comms Lab

A path to highly effective communication skills

Hayden is an emergency physician at University Hospital Geelong and a senior lecturer at Deakin University, Geelong. He is somewhat obsessed with the science and art of effective communication, and in particular: difficult conversations. He believes that we can all get better at having difficult conversations, and that the process of learning to do so can be seriously fun.

Hayden is also an avid but terrible surfer, ad hoc gardener, and dad to two awesome kids. | LinkedIn |


      • Hi Hayden
        Great tips!
        Do they apply also when you’re going to receive bad news?

        PS. Your Gatsby would love to play with my Golden Aaron…

        • Hey Roberto,

          That’s a great question.

          I think it depends on the nature and severity of the news. If the news is really bad (eg disclosure of a terminal diagnosis, or death of a relative), then I think the onus is really on the news-giver to lead the conversation in a clear and compassionate way.

          On the other hand, in feedback situations, I think it is possible for the feedback receiver to lead the conversation – even more productive. The best resource I’ve read on receiver-directed feedback is “Thanks for the Feedback” by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone (from the Harvard Negotiation Project).

          Thanks for the question Roberto – I’ll give some thought to how I can work this into a future episode.

          And I’ve no doubt Gatsby and Aaron would get on very well:)

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