How to Have That Difficult Discussion or Conversation

Ever struggled to have a difficult discussion or conversation?

Does this sound like you?

  • “I can’t let this situation continue
  • “It’s time I spoke up!
  • “The longer I put this off, the worse it’ll get
  • “If I don’t tackle this now, I’ll lose my nerve
  • “What if I make things worse?


Wouldn’t it be great to have a tool to help you get your difficult discussion handled?

My CARLA Concept™ Communication Model is a way to prepare for the conversation in advance. To get started, find something to write with or cozy up to your keyboard, then:

C = Outline the specific challenge you face. Is it a minor annoyance or a real deal breaker? What’s at stake? What’s the risk of allowing it to continue? This will help you clarify the seriousness of the issue. Rate the importance on a scale from 1 to 10.

A = List the actions you will take. What will you do first, second, third? When will you have the discussion? Where? What trigger event could indicate the timing is right? Envision in your mind how it will play out. People who “role play” a situation in advance are more likely to be successful in their efforts.

R = Identify results you hope to achieve. How will you know if you’re successful? Do you want them to acknowledge or accept that you have a valid point? Do you want them to do or say something different and if so, what would that be? How would you like this to end? What outcome(s) do you seek?

L = What were the lessons learned? What did you learn from similar experiences in the past? Getting “burned” is never a pleasant experience, but sometimes we learn more from misadventures and discomfort than when situations go easily.

A = Brainstorm another approach. It’s always good to have a Plan B. Even if you achieve some form of success, perhaps there are alternatives in case things don’t go as planned. Is “good enough” ever really good enough, or are there possibilities that may get you better results?

Dissecting the discussion in advance will help you anticipate how things might go, calm your nerves and stimulate ideas you might not have thought of. It’s time well spent, as any good chess player will tell you!