How to talk to anyone in
difficult situations
Even for the confident communicator, there will be certain ‘dif-
ficult situations’ that put their skills to the test. We all have
examples of conversations or people that we find more chal-
lenging. And these people can be family members, clients,
customers or work colleagues.
Whether it’s dealing with aggressive behaviour, standing up for
ourselves, trying to talk to someone when emotions are running
high or simply asking for what we want, there are going to be
times when we feel out of our comfort zone and exposed.
In this chapter we’re going to cover some of the general prin-
ciples that apply to pretty much any difficult situation and give
you strategies that you can employ anywhere, anytime’ and
then we’re going to look at some very specific situations and the
strategies and tools that you can employ to bring you success.
Let’s start with the general principles and first is one of the
fundamental beliefs of effective communicators:
All behaviour has a positive intention.
What this means is that everything we do, however strange it
may seem to someone else, we do for a reason which is positive
for us, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.
Have you ever had moments when someone has done some-
thing, behaved in a certain way, and you’ve thought to yourself,
‘Why on earth did they do that?’, or ‘What do they hope to
achieve by behaving like that?’ If you have, join the rest of us.
However behind that behaviour is believe it or not – a positive
intention. They are getting something out of behaving that way
or, and this is very important, they are hoping to get some-
thing out of behaving that way. What is that intention? Well,
until you know, you can only guess.
Why is it valuable to know this? In situations where we are
faced with difficult or challenging behaviour, it can be very
easy to react and respond to the behaviour. Sometimes, this
means springing to our own defence. Sometimes it can result in
confrontation. Sometimes it can end in tears.
If you want to be the best you can be in these situations, then
here’s the secret:
Find the positive intention!
Dont react to the behaviour but go on the search ‘truffle
hunting,’ as one great communicator we worked with termed it
for the intention that lies behind the behaviour. How to do
that? Let us give you a quick example – here is Bill’s story.
Bill’s story
John was setting up to run a sales development workshop in a
client’s offices one day and one of the staff, called Joyce, was
helping him. He had his back to the door when he heard it open-
ing and Joyce said, ‘John, this is Bill. Hes on the workshop
today.’ Now John’s a pretty friendly guy, so he turned round, put
out his hand to shake Bill’s, and said, ’Good morning, Bill.’
Well, we cant write out here what Bill said because this book
would never get past the censor! But he just let rip about the
waste of his ******* time, how sales training didn’t ******* work,
how it was flavour of the ******* month, how much ******* work
he had to do and every other word was ******* unprintable!
Now one thing you know as well as we do; storms blow them-
selves out. So John just stood there and waited. Although every
bone in his body wanted to react and he just wanted to say,

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