A framework for difficult conversations

Peter Shepherd
1 min readFeb 12, 2023

For all you leaders out there navigating difficult conversations and don’t have enough acronyms in your life (iykyk lol fyi):

EEmpathetically seek to understand what might be going on for the other person. What are their dreams, hopes, fears, doubts, goals and insecurities that they’ll be bringing to this conversation?

AAsk questions that enable you to better understand where the other person is coming from and how they hope to move forward. Questions like: What’s difficult about this for you? What does success look like for you moving forward? How would you like to be supported?

R — Reflect back what you have heard the other person say using their words.

S — State what moving forward might look like based on what you know and everything that has been said (remember: concise is nice).

Most people fear difficult conversations because they’re afraid of what the other person might say. So afraid, in fact, that they avoid even having the conversation.

When in doubt: acknowledge that the conversation you’re about to have is difficult and then use your EARS (see what I did there?)


Originally published at https://noodlescratchers.com on February 12, 2023.



Peter Shepherd

Pete is the Founder and Director of Human Periscope: helping others see things they can‘t by asking questions others aren’t. https://humanperiscope.com/