Business, Community & Government, Wellness

How to Have Difficult Conversations

Esther Perel

Lesson time 16:11 min

Difficult conversations will always be difficult, but there are tools that can help you navigate them more effectively. Esther outlines some common difficult conversations and describes what makes them so challenging.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Prepare for the Conversation • Communicate Conscientiously • Consider the Generational and Cultural Context • You Can’t Control the Response, but You Can Shape It • Be Vulnerable • Ask Yourself “Why?”


[MUSIC PLAYING] - One of the very important aspects of relationships-- and relational intelligence, for that matter-- is how do we have difficult conversations. How do we break up with someone? How do we tell someone that they can't continue work here? How do we give feedback? How do we make ourselves vulnerable in having a difficult conversation, and how do we bring out the vulnerability in others as we have a difficult conversation with them? [MUSIC PLAYING] Difficult conversations sometimes are defined by the topic, what it is that we need to be talking about. I think that what is more significant and more challenging about them, and why we often are so reluctant and avoidant, and we know we have to call that person, we know we have to have this conversation, and it just doesn't happen, is because what we dread is the feelings that these conversations will dredge up, particularly hurt or pain and anger. [MUSIC PLAYING] Before we start thinking together about difficult conversations, I want to ask you to just jot down first things that come to mind-- one, two, three difficult conversations that you remember having had or need to have. These difficult conversations can be with someone else. But let me even throw in, what's a difficult conversation that you need to have with yourself? [MUSIC PLAYING] If I need to prepare for a difficult conversation, I know it instantly. I can tell you really personally, the difficult conversations start for me in my belly. I feel the knot. I feel anxious. I don't know what, sometimes, I'm actually worried about, but I know this is a conversation that triggers high stress in me. Sometimes it's because of what I fear I may feel, and sometimes it's because I'm afraid of what the other person may feel. So you ask yourself-- difficult conversation-- what is the obstacle? What stands in the way? What am I intensely aware of as I'm about to have this conversation? [MUSIC PLAYING] A difficult conversation is a difficult conversation will be a difficult conversation. There's a lot of things we can do, but it doesn't change the nature of the conversation. I'm going to tell you the things you can do, but I'm also going to tell you what people say when you're doing them. For example, the classic one is to say, let me start with all the good things. And everybody is waiting for the other shoe to drop because it is already prepared as such, as I'm going to first lay out the good stuff, and then I'm going to tell you your fate. We think that we are softening it by first starting with what is really special about you or what you've done so well here at work. Nevertheless, we're going to have to let you go. I promise you, we know the fate of a conversation sometimes in advance. So I am waiting for the shoe to drop, then I'm not hearing any of the positive thing you're telling me. You should do the positive thing first. But just so you know, the other person is preparing the ...

About the Instructor

Known for her innovative approach to love and relationships, Esther Perel is sharing her methods for building deeper connections with every person in your life. Whether it’s with your partner or project manager, you’ll learn how rethinking the basic principles of intimacy, communication, and trust can improve the quality of your life in the bedroom, boardroom, and beyond.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Esther Perel

Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel teaches you the power—and the art—of connecting with others.

Explore the Class
Sign Up