Playback Access: Preparing for the Hardest Conversations - a Panel Discussion

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The realities of difficult conversations at work

Hard conversations are an inevitable part of work. Whether it's addressing performance, asking for or giving critical feedback, or discussing sensitive topics, learning how to have difficult conversations is essential for personal and professional growth. In this discussion, we're talking about how to prepare for these conversations - because if we don't set ourselves up well to go into it, we're practicing live when the stakes are highest.

Lack of preparation can be the catalyst for hard conversations going awry. When we enter difficult discussions without adequate groundwork, emotions and stress can quickly escalate, derailing productive communication. Without a clear understanding of our own thoughts and feelings, we may struggle to articulate our perspectives effectively, leading to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Preparation is crucial in fostering empathy and active listening. Absence of readiness can result in reactive rather than thoughtful responses, further exacerbating tensions and deepening divides. Conversations may become unstructured, meandering, or volatile, with participants becoming defensive or shutting down.

In contrast, when we invest time in preparing for difficult conversations, we can establish a calmer and more respectful atmosphere, build mutual understanding, and pave the way for meaningful resolutions. Ultimately, preparation sets the foundation for successful, constructive dialogues even in the most challenging circumstances.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has identified 13 factors of Psychologically Safe & Healthy Workplaces. Organizations who put them into effect can empower their workers to develop true work-life balance - leading to increased productivity, motivation, and engagement at work.

  • Culture
  • Psychological & Social Support
  • Civility & Respect
  • Clear Leadership & Expectations
  • Psychological Demands
  • Growth & Development
  • Recognition & Reward
  • Involvement & Influence
  • Workload Management
  • Engagement
  • Balance
  • Psychological Protection
  • Protection of Physical Safety

What We Talked About

Part 1

The most common ways that hard conversations go sideways, or that lead to one or more party to get defensive or shut down

Part 2

The importance of self-regulation in helping us feel prepared to enter into, and to effectively conduct, hard conversations

Part 3

Co-regulation - what it is and how it's one of the most effective strategies to keep all parties on track and productive

Part 4

How much preparation should be happening leading into a hard conversation - from room setup & location, to scripting, to checking in before the dialogue even starts

Part 5

Getting into the right mindset for the conversation - why knowing exactly what we're bringing into the meeting is an essential piece that'll affect the outcome from the start

Part 6

The importance of recognizing and understanding the role power dynamics play in each interaction - and tips & strategies to neutralize some of their biggest effects

Our Panel

Conflict Navigation Expert

Charmaine Hammond

Community Development Expert

Kimberly Van Ryn

Collaborative Leadership Expert

Sara Clarke


CEO, The Expert Talk

Jennifer Prendergast

Here’s What People Are Saying About Our Experts' Work

“Charmaine provided conflict management training to managers at various levels in our organization. She customized her presentation to our specific needs. In addition, she provides concise support material and follow-up as needed. I highly recommend her services.“


Chief Superintendent,

District Commander, Southern Alberta RCMP

"Kim and Sara's expertise and passion shone through as they delivered the training, providing our staff and volunteers with invaluable insights and tools to better understand and support neurodiverse individuals. Their approach was engaging, inclusive, and tailored to our needs, creating a positive and welcoming learning environment. The training opened our eyes to new perspectives, helping us build a more empathetic and inclusive community. We now feel better equipped to provide the necessary support to create a safe space for all the children and youth we serve."

Juli-Ann James

Streams Hub Co-Founder