Kellye Crane role playing a difficult conversation with a client.

Kellye Crane role playing a difficult conversation with a client.

I was fortunate to once again be able to attend the SoloPR Summit in Atlanta last week. This was the second year in a row that Kellye Crane and Karen Swim brought together Solo Public Relations professionals from across the country (including Alaska and Canada.)

While all of the sessions were very good, one of my favorites was “Managing Difficult Conversations” with Cloudspark’s Jenny Schmitt and SoloPR Founder Kellye Crane.

Whether it’s a financial issue, scope creep or tactical disagreements over strategy, all of us who are Solo Pro’s ends up occasionally being challenged with a prospective client or partner.

Here were their 7 top tips:

1. Plan – Have a script. Actually have in writing what you plan to say on the phone or in person and then practice. Kelly and Jenny had each of us turn to a partner and “play act” our parts.  Don’t just “wing it.”

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Silence – At lunch later we laughed about this favorite old journalist’s technique. Remain silent and the interviewee will look to fill the void (and often trip over both themselves and their words, much to a reporter’s delight!) Of course in any negotiations, silence is golden.

3. Stay Firm – This was really encouraging. If you stay firm our instructors said, you will ultimately win more respect.

4. Use Active Listening – This fantastic listening style was actually taught to my husband and me before we were married (and it’s worked well for nearly 19 years!) When you’re striving to understand the other person, reflect back to them what you heard. “So I hear you to say…” (Hint: If this is your spouse I’ve found it helps to hold hands as you play this out. It’s extremely hard to argue with someone when you’re holding his/her hand.)

5. Back up Your Position in Writing – Wow! There is only one time since I started my business five years ago that I did not get an agreement with a client in writing and what a huge mistake that was! A written agreement brings clarity and provides an easy reference document.

6. Make Recommendations – Here Jenny and Kellye suggested coming up with alternatives if one scenario does not work. Use “I wish” statements instead of “You’re wrong.”

7. People have their own pressures – We all are under unique stresses including our clients in their jobs. We really don’t know what they are going through so remember, be kind. You never want to burn a bridge.


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15 Responses to “How to Handle Difficult Conversations: 7 Tips from The SoloPR Summit”

  1. This is excellent and perfect timing as I deal with my most difficult client ever. I’ll be saving this off and sharing it. I do love that you end with be kind – no matter how difficult the person is being!

  2. Great Tips! This was one of my favorite sessions. We had so much fun “acting out” difficult conversations. I struggle with this, but after being in the session, I feel more confident.

    Prepare —-> Practice ——> Professional

  3. This is just excellent advice and a great resource. Thanks, Mel!

  4. Jessica says:

    My friend and I were just discussing this last night. Thank you for breaking it down.

  5. What a great post. I love how you share the concept of compassion in communication. I believe this can be a very important skill, especially for those of us who work in health-related service positions.

    • maryellen says:

      Mira, you are so right that we often have no idea what’s going on with the other person. We do need to be kind.

  6. Very good tips! I especially think active listening is important in any conversation.

  7. LOVE the tip “Don’t Be Afraid of Silence” … So many people are uncomfortable with silence and feel like they need to fill the space. As a result, they end up shooting themselves in the foot!

  8. maryellen says:

    Really appreciate the ping back Kellye!


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