When do I have a difficult conversation?

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I get asked this a lot. How soon should I have the conversation: too quickly seems like I’m nit-picking, too long and it can seem to late. What time of day? What day of the week? And more.

And it’s tricky because we do want to pick our moment as best we can but this in itself can get in the way of having the conversation.

So in this blog I’d like to give you some guidance on these timing issues – they’re not hard and fast rules, but they have proved useful.

How soon should I have the conversation?

For most issues I operate on a the basis that I need to see the issue 2 – 3 times in order to raise it. Once might be an exception. Twice indicates a pattern. Three times is a pattern.

 What time of day should I have it?

 I realise you don’t always have a choice as to what time you can have the conversation but generally I would say toward the end of the day. In difficult conversations people are more likely to have some sort of emotional reaction and you don’t want this to affect the school day or the children greatly. Also it means they don’t have to wait to deal with their feelings in private or speak to a loved one about their thoughts.

What day of the week?

Generally I would say any day but Friday; that said sometimes Friday has worked very well. My general view is most people won’t want to be stewing on an issue over the weekend. Like I said, not a hard a fast rule, but a principle which can work well.

Don’t save the conversation for appraisal!

Unless appraisal/performance management is in the next 2 weeks don’t wait for it to bring up issues; timing is definitely important and letting someone know sooner rather than later is much better.

Did I miss something about timing? Let me know.

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‘Sonia Gill is a founder and director of Heads Up Limited, an education leadership consultancy which specialises in supporting schools become outstanding. Their training and coaching is recommended by the 100s of school leaders she has worked with. To find out more visit www.ukheadsup.com.’