They’ll never change

When you need to have a difficult conversation, it can feel like the other person will never change. In fact, that might be a reason for you to not waste time in having the conversation.

However, in my experience, people do change in the vast majority of instances, even with some pretty entrenched behaviour:

I’ve seen bullies stop bullying – not through sanctions, but through a successful difficult conversation.

I’ve seen technophobes embrace technology.

Even negative, miserable people change their approach to be more positive.

I’d like to share a situation I’ve come across quite a few times.

The situation: An in-school cover teacher struggled with technology and, every time they went into a new class, they would struggle to set up the technology used to take the register electronically, to pull up lesson plans and to find other resources that were on the computer.

The impact: The cover teacher would get flustered (every time), and someone else in the team would have to do this for them, which meant they lost about 10 minutes from the start of their day.

The conversation: A school leader knew a conversation was needed but feared, as most do, that the willingness to learn how to use the technology might not be there. Would it be a wasted conversation?

It was a hard conversation. The cover teacher got upset and it didn’t feel like it went well.

However, the cover teacher came back later, having had some time to think, and he agreed with the school leader, wanting their help to fix it.

The outcome: The school leader and cover teacher worked together to improve these skills so that he could access what was needed on the computer without anyone else’s help.

This empowered him, gave back other teachers that precious 10 minutes in the morning, and showed that even when it seems unlikely, people are capable of changes we might think are out of their reach for whatever reason.

I see this all the time: the change we think is unlikely to happen actually happens when we know how to have a successful difficult conversation. And that’s the lesson I take away.


If you’d like practical tips on how to have ‘successful’ difficult conversations, come to our half day training course on Friday 8th March at Friends House, Euston. For further information visit