Ever felt your stomach churning at the prospect of having that critical conversation with a direct report? Would you rather avoid having to give critical feedback to your team? Well, you really are not alone.

Critical conversations, unlike the majority of everyday chats, are where the stakes are high and there is potentially a lot to lose or gain for those involved. We are hard wired, it seems, to either avoid these conversations at all costs or if we do get stuck in, we more often than not play them badly and demonstrate behaviours that in hindsight we wish we hadn’t.

According to recent employee engagement surveys the most difficult scenarios faced in the workplace are telling a subordinate that they have a body odour issue or dealing with a male report who is crying. No wonder we avoid these interactions..! But for most of us, simply giving developmental feedback in a business context is challenge enough.

Why should it be so tricky? Well, because the fight or flight mechanism is hard wired into our beings. We avoid that critical conversations (flight/passive response) or jump in all guns blazing (fight/aggressive response).

What happens to your body, brain and breathing prior to a critical conversation? Fast, shallow breathing activates the adrenal glands which pump adrenaline in to your blood stream and blood is diverted away from the brain (so now you’re certainly not thinking straight) towards legs and arms where it’s supposedly needed (remember you’re about to fly or fight here) until eventually your limbs are pumped but your intellectual facilities are so compromised that you temporarily have the mental agility of a 6 year old just when you really need to think with clarity and communicate incisively..!

Between these two polar extremes of flight and fight, resides a land called assertiveness. Getting to the point of communicating with assertiveness takes self awareness and training. Which is where we come in…

Preparing effectively, structuring the meeting properly, giving feedback appropriately, listening actively and not being afraid to acknowledge emotions that exist will all aid communication and understanding. Easy to say and write, much harder to do of course. So we will rehearse situations with you repeatedly until you have a much more confident grip.

Remember that with critical conversations there is as much to gain as there is to lose. Clearing the air and re-setting dynamics between two parties can be the perfect way to build relationships and real influencing power within an organisation. Could you even get to the point where you actually look forward to challenging conversation?


Critical Conversation Training Outcomes

Our critical conversation training will enable you to:

  • Handle crucial conversations
  • Confront challenging issues with confidence
  • Build trust with your teams
  • Improve dialogue and engagement
  • Build interpersonal relationships
  • Deal with difficult situations
  • Create behaviour change
  • Build a high performance culture
  • Learn techniques to over come nerves
  • Improve your team’s performance
  • Speak persuasively
  • Engage in effective conversations which resolve challenges


“People almost never change without first feeling understood.”

– Douglas Stone

“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: Due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.”

– Truman Capote


Critical Conversation Training FAQ

What is it?

  • For executives who want to improve informal communication, influencing skills for conversations/meetings where stakes are high
  • Practicing difficult conversations
How does it work?
  • Series of practical exercises adapted from theatre and actor training
  • Absolute confidentiality
  • Focusing on you learning by doing 
  • Practicing critical conversations – written briefs and bespoke
  • Can work as 1:1 training or as a bespoke course for a group
What will I do?
  • Creative exercises designed to highlight best practice
  • Assertiveness training – what is it, how best to project assertiveness?
  • Listening/advocacy – how to develop active listening skills, how best to convey perspective
  • Input relevant behaviour/personality models
What will I get out of it?
  • Greater confidence in facing difficult conversations
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Greater influencing ability
What support and guidance will I get?
  • Thorough rehearsal process with highly experienced actor/trainers
  • Safe, confidential environment
When does it take place?
  • 1 day training course for several people
  • Minimum half day for 1:1 session
Where does it take place?
  • Wherever you need us, wherever the right locations are
  • We are London based, however we can provide training anywhere in the world
  • Usually client premises or a neutral training venue – we can arrange this with a management training centres
How much does it cost?
  • Cost depends on your specific needs, number of participants etc.
Why choose us?
  • Advantage is that we are well established as leadership development experts so fully understand the learning objectives that you have.
  • We are experts in behaviour and communication skills training – so you have the benefit of our years of experience
  • We are very experienced actors, writers, directors so know first hand what works well when performing to an audience when the stakes are high
  • We do not run off the shelf critical conversations courses – focus is entirely on your organisation’s objectives

What have others experienced?

See our blog posts for critical conversation tips

Useful resources

How can I book?