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No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.

–Robin Williams

Instead of using common descriptors like “courageous conversations” or “difficult conversations” in the title for this chapter, I purposefully used the phrase “coaching conversations” to help reframe the negative connotations associated with those terms. Examples of interprofessional coaching conversations might include:

  • Talking to a coworker about a problem she’s having that is affecting your work

  • Giving your nurse manager feedback when she’s doing something that’s demotivating you

  • Providing corrective criticism to a colleague

  • Talking to a colleague, doctor, or patient who is not keeping up her end of a bargain

  • Confronting a coworker or colleague about disrespectful behavior, such as discrimination

  • Pointing out someone’s shortcomings that are affecting patient care (for example, noticing that a colleague didn’t wash her hands)

These types of conversations are just plain hard—especially when emotions are high or the conversation involves someone you sincerely like (or dislike). Not surprisingly, most people tend to avoid these conversations completely, hoping the situation will miraculously improve. A better alternative is to learn the skills needed to have effective coaching conversations and then facilitate the dialogue with grace and finesse. That’s the focus of this chapter.

Interprofessional coaching conversations can help others better contribute toward a shared goal, enhance their competence and commitment, and improve relationships.


When faced with the prospect of engaging in a hard-to-have conversation, it can be helpful to have scripts in place, such as the ones outlined in Scripts 7.1 and 7.2.

Script 7.1

What to say when… you want to ask your manager to stop micromanaging you.

Script 7.2

What to say when…a coworker isn't respectful of diversity.

The primary purpose of a having a hard-to-have conversation is not to persuade or get one over on the other person. It is to explain what you see, why you see it that way, and how you feel about it, and to come to a resolution—and for the other person to do the same. You simply can’t move the conversation in a more positive direction until both people feel they have been heard and understood. Each person involved in any situation has a different story about what happened; your job is not to judge who’s right and who’s wrong, but to manage the situation to achieve a better outcome.

It follows, then, that a real conversation is an interactive process in which you are constantly listening. Listening shifts the goal of the conversation from trying to persuade someone to actually learning from him. As a bonus, when you ...

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