Conversation starters for vital conversations - and other tips

Feb 11 / Jen Tyson
When I coach individuals or groups in the practice and guidelines around having ‘Vital conversations’ more confidently and with better outcomes, I often get the question ‘How do I start the conversation?’


NOTE: Vital conversations are sometimes referred to as Courageous conversations, we prefer vital because there is always an impact if you choose not to have them

This seems to be the spot where many get stuck, they can use the framework to map out the conversation, work through all the planning but when it comes to opening that door and making the first move, they get stuck on what to say and how to say it.

I have put together some ideas and examples of some great opening lines and then some tips that may help you grow in confidence and skill in this area.

If you follow my blogs, you will know that I always focus on ‘it is not what has to be said but it is how we say it’

Let's get our heads in that space first, if you have yet to go through the worksheet on how to set your vital conversation up well, you are welcome to find it over here in our free online short course.

Conversation Starters:

Here are a few conversation openers to help you kick start a vital conversation, every scenario is unique, so these are some starters, you can write your own by using some of the ideas here or a combination, I have tried to cover off a number of common scenarios such as a colleague saying something you didn’t like at a meeting, to micromanagement from a colleague or manager:
  • I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively. 
  • I’d like to talk about XYZ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.
  • I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • I think we may have different perceptions about XYZ . I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.
  • I’d like to talk about XYZ . I think we may have different ideas about how to XYZ .
  • I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about XYZ . I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.
  • I know we both want this project to be successful, I would like to discuss the approach you suggested and understand your thoughts better.
  • I have been having difficulty understanding your decision to XYZ , I wonder if we could make time to meet today so I can get more information and a better perspective.
  • I appreciate your assistance so far on this project, I would like to chat to you further about how I can free up your time more by taking on more responsibility myself
  • Thank you so much for your input so far, I would like to chat to you about the areas I feel I am ready to fly solo in, so you can focus more energy on XYZ

Remember to be brave enough to start a conversation that matters! You never really know how things will turn out, more often than not we walk away from vital conversations wishing we had them earlier, because the outcome was good for both parties. But if they don't go well, and for me this is about 2 percent of the time now, there are other factors that may be outside your control, you will have other options and choices, remember you are always at choice as to what to do next. 

We can only control our approach, the way we word and frame things up, the timing and delivery method of our message, we can’t control how another person will respond or react. 

Other tips that help when opening the door to vital conversations:

  • Plan your conversation well, as I said before, use our framework as a guide to help you get all the bases covered.
  • Be considerate when picking your time to open this conversation and ask for a time that is convenient but in a reasonable time frame, if they are ready to go in that moment be ready to grab the opportunity and dive right in.
  • Ensure it is in appropriate setting, in front of everyone at a meeting is not usually appropriate for any part of this process, grab the person after the meeting
  • Check in with your body language and tone, make sure both are open, and non threatening.
  • Consider your options and next steps if the conversation is declined or doesn’t go well, so you remain empowered to still have options.
  • When requesting a meeting, request a private room or office with a door that closes, if the person tries to have the conversation in front of others make the request for privacy using similar words and frameworks as above - “I would be more comfortable in my/your office or meeting room”

I hope that helps you get those vital conversations started, remember you are always at choice, there are always options. Stay empowered

Here is a link to our free course on vital conversations please feel free enrol at any time or pass it on to others you think may need help in this area

Jen Tyson
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