Ten Tips for Emotionally Intelligent Conversations

"No one has to change; everyone has to have the conversation." - David Whyte

In her two books, Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership, training and development consultant Susan Scott explains that the word "fierce" doesn't imply menace, cruelty or threats. In Roget's Thesaurus, the word fierce is associated with the following synonyms: robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed and untamed.

Authentic leaders create workplace cultures where people collaborate by having open, honest and deep conversations about what matters. What types of conversations are people engaged in at your company?

The following are some tips you can use for having fierce conversations at work, particularly difficult conversations that have to deal with conflict or lack of trust. These ideas are helpful for people who have trust issues and are in conflict with one another. They have been found to be very powerful and effective in helping leaders and employees engage in assertive and emotionally intelligent conversations.

How to Sharpen a Conversation

Ten steps can guide you through more meaningful conversations. As with any guide, consider these steps to be general principles, and choose your words with forethought.

1. Prepare to have your conversation in person, without distractions.

2. Clarify your intentions.

3. Prepare your opening statement.

4. Name the issue.

5. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior you want to change.

6. Describe your emotions around the issue.

7. Clarify what's at stake.

8. Identify the ways in which you contribute to the problem.

9. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.

10. Invite your partner to respond.

Once you've made a trial run with these guidelines, debrief with the other person. You can say something like: "Thank you for hearing what I had to say and for sharing your perspectives. Your success is important to me, and I applaud your commitment to action. I'd like us to follow up on this later."

Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches are hired to provide interpersonal communication skills and leadership development for organizational leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching to help leaders improve their interpersonal communication skills? Leaders at all levels need to improve their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is "Can I acknowledge how I may be contributing to the problem when engaging in fierce conversations?" Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations, provide executive coaching and communications skills training for leaders who want to have fierce conversations and be fully engaged and happy at work.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you create an organizational culture where the ability to connect and collaborate with people helps build business success. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.


Maynard is a consulting psychologist and personal, career and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting, training and transformational coaching firm that develops people and organizations. We specialize in helping companies assess, select, coach, and retain top talent; leadership development; 360-degree feedback; emotional intelligence; competency modeling; succession management; career development and executive coaching. Maynard is an instructor with The...

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