Navigating Difficult Conversations: Tools for Speaking with Authenticity and Confidence


Sooner or later, each of us needs to have a conversation with someone or we end up in a conversation that is challenging for us and the other party. This difficult conversation might involve saying “no” to your boss, giving constructive feedback to a co-worker, dealing with an upset customer, responding to an insensitive bully, or conducting or receiving a performance review. Too often these challenging interactions are defined by stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and even fear. It doesn’t have to be this way. During this seminar, you will learn a set of powerful models, tools, and techniques for approaching difficult conversations with confidence and composure. When emotions run high and there is a lot on the line, you want to be able guide these difficult conversations toward productive ends. Navigating these conversations may never be easy, but we can make them more effective – once we understand why they sometimes go off the rails and learn what we can do to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome.

Attend this seminar to learn powerful strategies for turning these difficult conversations into satisfying ones.

As a result of attending this seminar, you will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of a difficult conversation.
  • Discuss why we engage in self-defeating, self-destructive behaviors during difficult conversations.
  • Describe the two mindsets that drive our beliefs, thinking and behaviors: The My-Way and Collaborative Mindsets.
  • Apply the Governing Values and Enacting Behaviors of the Collaborative Mindset to your own conversations (difficult or otherwise).
  • Demonstrate an integrative model for conducting difficult conversations – those that we can plan for and those that arise spontaneously.
  • Identify strategies for better managing your emotions during these difficult conversations.
  • Demonstrate ways to reduce anxiety and fear and create greater safety for yourself and others in the midst of a difficult conversation.
  • Implement a personal plan for strengthening your ability to navigate current and future difficult conversations.


Location: ONLINE (link will be sent to registrants shortly before class)

Date:  10/26, 27 & 28 2021 (participants must attend all 3 days)

Schedule: 9:30 am – 12:00 pm

Fee:  $269

Click to Register or call 608-262-3909 to register. BONUS: Place 2 or Fall paid leadership courses in your cart, and use discount code SBDC10 for 10% off. Classes must be purchased in the same transaction.

Registration policy: Payment will be required at time of registration. You must have either a credit card or valid UW-Madison funding string to be able to register.

Cancellation policy: If you cancel before the program begins, there is a $25 cancellation fee. If you cancel after the program begins you will be charged for the full program fee. To cancel, call registration at 608-262-3909.

Disability Statement: Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the UW-Madison SBDC office at to request accommodations.

The Small Business Development Center at UW Madison is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®.


Jeff Russell, Russell Consulting

Jeff Russell

Jeffrey Russell, co-director of Russell Consulting, Inc., specializes in helping organizations successfully respond to the challenges of continuous change.  With a focus on developing leadership, strategic thinking, leading change, performance coaching, and effective communication, Jeff has helped organizations as diverse as Fortune 500 firms, social and public sector organizations, and small family businesses to achieve their goals. Jeff received his Masters Degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he serves as an ad hoc faculty member for the Small Business Development Center. Jeff also teaches for the UW-Madison School of Engineering and Local Government Education and at UW campuses of La Crosse and Milwaukee.

Jeff and his wife and business partner Linda have co-authored nine books. Recent publications include: Leading Change Training, Strategic Planning Training, Change Basics, Strategic Planning 101, Ultimate Performance Management, and Fearless Performance Reviews (McGraw-Hill, 2014). For more information on Jeff and his work, visit Russell Consulting, Inc.’s website at