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Courageous Conversations: Everything You Need to Know From An HR Pro

Courageous conversations are the essence of healthy conflict management – and are the most effective way to avoid conflict escalation. 

No workplace will be conflict-free, but it is possible to create a non-judgmental, emotionally intelligent environment that allows for hard conversations in a respectful way.

So when initiating courageous conversations – especially remotely – visual contact proves even more important. 

Facial expressions provide a lot of visual cues about what people are feeling — even small, fleeting changes, called micro-expressions, provide useful information about people’s initial reactions to information. 

And exchanging emails, texts, or phone calls means you’re likely to miss momentary changes in people’s facial expressions — and the meaning they convey.

It then proves paramount to use video conferencing to create an exchange wherein you can interact effectively and intimately. 

Here's everything you need to know to make them work.


What To Know About Courageous Conversations

  1. They must come from a place of compassion. No one will have a courageous conversation if they don’t care about keeping that person around.
  2. They require permission. It is impossible to have a courageous conversation if the other person does not buy into it.
  3. They require foresight. Plan ahead but remember that the other person hasn’t had time to prepare. Give them some space to steel their nerves and show up for you and the conversation.
  4. They are not a one-time conversation. Courageous conversations do not happen in a vacuum, and they require more than one meeting to guarantee changes.


Courageous Conversations: What The Pros Know

It’s one thing to learn about courageous conversations – and quite another to use what you learn in application.

So, before you jump in with both fearless feet, we sat down with our resident expert, Human Resources Manager Lori Friedman, for her insight. 


How have you — and your — role evolved over time?

“I’ve held multiple positions at BELAY over the years but started in HR as an HR Coordinator. 

“My role encompassed all things staffing, employee engagement, employee relations, benefits, and remote work wellness. My current role includes all of those things but we now have a team of people as we have grown.”


What do you love most about working in HR, and why?

“I love finding great talent, making sure they have the right seat on the bus, and supporting our team members in a way that makes them love to come to work at BELAY. 

“I love our culture and am a fierce protector of the amazing company we all get to serve.”


Now, let’s give the people what they came here for – how much of your gift for navigating courageous conversations is nature and how much is nurture? In other words: Can a layperson learn to have these conversations as well as you?

“I think it is a combination. 

“I genuinely care about people and ultimately want the best for them, so that part comes naturally. 

“Learning the best approach for each individual and each situation has been – and still is – a learning process.”


How do you prepare for these conversations?

“[I try to] understand the person I am communicating with, understand the facts of the situation vs. the emotions. 

“[You can’t] discount the emotions but present the information factually and honestly – truly care about the individual but be direct and approach the conversation with kind honesty.”


What’s the biggest factor in courageous-conversations-gone-wrong?

“Often, the culprit is usually letting too much emotion hijack the situation. 

“It is important to genuinely care about the other individual in the conversation, but remain calm and direct with your information. 

“As long as they know you genuinely care, it helps diffuse tough conversations that could ultimately escalate and spiral into very difficult exchanges.”


What's one thing you wish everyone who feared or avoided these conversations would know?

“You are not doing what is best for someone by avoiding these conversations.

“As tough as they are, they are the right thing to do and really best for all involved.”