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Challenging Conversations - Raise with 4P's

Many leaders that I speak to still dread having the challenging conversation. They are convinced that it will go wrong and they will end up upsetting the person and making the situation difficult. It need not be that intimidating though and over this month we have been looking at how to prepare for the conversation and the six key steps to having a successful conversation.

  • Realise the Reason

  • Recognise the issues

  • Reaction awareness

  • Raise with 4P’s

  • Respond with 4P’s

  • Review for growth

This week, we explore how we ‘Raise with 4P’s’: Prime; Purpose; Partner & Plan


Whenever you have asked someone to ‘have a word’ or ‘can we have a chat’, they will more than likely be telling themselves they are in trouble. So, when we start our conversation, we need to PRIME them ready to receive the message positively. As we described last week, their emotional chimp part of their brain will be looking out for threat. This will prompt an emotional reaction. So we can reduce their emotional response by priming them with our motive. Simple phrases like ‘I would really like to help you’, help to calm them ready to receive the message.


People need to understand the reason for the conversation and people buy into a why rather than a what. So, help them understand the PURPOSE of the conversation. Simple phrases like, ‘I would like to help you have a better interaction with your colleagues’ can help them see you as supporting them on something they value but may be struggling with. We then need to get to the key POINT. Be specific and factual. It is no good having a general statement like, ‘I think you are a little rude to people’ as they will argue back. It is much better to explain with examples. For example, ‘I have noticed that you can speak with an abrupt tone, for example when you spoke to Bernard on Friday morning at the team meeting and when you spoke to Bernadette about the finance returns this morning.’ They have little wriggle room. Take care though to not let it sound like a Policeman’s notebook and bombard them with all their crimes and dates. Just enough to help them see the particular issues. Lastly, help them understand the IMPACT it is having. This can be the impact on them, their colleagues or their work output.


One of the reasons we can often get a reaction from people, is because they feel control is being taken from them and it is therefore getting an anxiety reaction in them to fight, flight or freeze from it. The trick therefore is to involve them in it and give them ownership. So, PARTNER with them and put the ball in their court. Ask them how they can help improve this situation. Wait for an answer from them and don’t be afraid of the awkward silence. If they try to deny there is an issue, take them back to the POINT and what it is having an IMPACT on. If some struggle to come up with ideas, by all means make some suggestions for them to choose from, but the greatest impact comes when they come up with some ideas. You can ask them how that action will help and how they will know it will be successful.


Once the ideas start, then DISCUSS with them and work together on a solution. Establish what support they need and what help or training you can provide to get them there. Then CONFIRM who is doing what by when and when you will meet again to review it.

These 4 simple steps can help guide you through the conversation. As we mentioned in week 1 of the blogs, knowing the purpose or reason for the conversation is key. Why don't you give it a try? Plan it out under the 4 P's and see what impact it has on you and on them.

Next week we will look at how to respond when you suddenly find yourself in a conversation that you were not planning but happens none the less.

Can we help you?

We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore having difficult conversations and gain better insight then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. We equally run group training on ‘Holding a challenging Conversation’ which we can run online or in person. If you have a challenge and you would like our support, then do get in contact with us. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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