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How to Prepare for Difficult Conversations w/ Bridget Gleason [Episode 613]

Bridget Gleason is VP of Sales for Logz.io and my regular partner on Front Line Fridays. Special guest on this episode is Susan Steinbrecher, President and CEO of Steinbrecher & Associates, Inc.


  • Susan Steinbrecher is the special guest in this episode. The topic is having ‘difficult conversations,’ with subordinates, peers, or customers.
  • Susan formed Steinbrecher & Associates, Inc. 25 years ago. Steinbrecher & Associates focuses on leadership development and leadership training.
  • Susan noticed a pattern with her clients where they were uncomfortable with hard conversations. She also saw polarization in society. She decided to address the issues.
  • How do we communicate difficult topics effectively? Where there is a lot of stress, clarity is key. People don’t feel competent to approach conflict, so they avoid it.
  • There are two jobs to it. Internally, you need to manage your emotions with resilience and self-control. Externally, you need to know the step-by-step process to work through the conversation from beginning to end.
  • Some difficult conversations seem more emotionally weighted, and grievance-based. We don’t operate at our best if we’re not sleeping well or eating well. Susan teaches tactics to help you when you find yourself upset.
  • When there is extreme emotion, recognize it, pause, and ask to reconvene the next day after time for reflection. Consider what the options are, and choose intentionally. This may be one conversation of many.
  • In a difficult conversation, first, lay out the reason for the conversation, so no one is confused. Besides the stated goals, it is important to facilitate the emotions of the other person. Empathize (do not agree) with the situation.
  • Susan teaches techniques, such as empathizing, active listening skills, involve them in the solution, to defuse a situation. Bridget notes it takes self-awareness to navigate these conversations. Recognize triggers.
  • Susan felt that these skills and tools are not common. These techniques need to be taught in homes, schools, and prisons, as well as at work. People often don’t know why they are being triggered. These skills take practice.
  • ‘One and done’ is not enough. This training takes a facilitator and multiple sessions with feedback and coaching. People think they are better at these skills than they show up to be when observed and critiqued.
  • Proper communication can determine the success of an organization. The organization needs to be aligned to thrive. There are models of personal style of conversation. Susan shows people how they show up.