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How to master conversations at work

conversations at work

Workplace communication statistics show that 86% of employees and executives cite the lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main causes of workplace failures. Sometimes, rather than having what might feel like a difficult conversation, we walk away and don’t speak honestly or express our wishes.

Sara Hope, the Co-Author of Conversational Wisdom (out 19 June) and co-founder of The Conversation Space shares her advice on how to master conversations at work.

How to master conversations at work Sara Hope author

Sara Hope

Good communication means rethinking how we have conversations. It’s something we do every day; we share ideas, give instructions, offer feedback, and check in with our colleagues.

However, given all the challenges we experienced in the pandemic, navigating the pros and cons of hybrid working, and the increasing use of instant messaging, we are at risk of losing the skill of being brave enough to have conversations where we fear getting it wrong, or being judged or misunderstood. Worst case, we don’t have the conversation at all, and that fuels disconnection.

Imagine a situation where your circumstances at home have changed. You may have increased caring responsibilities, a relationship break-down, or health concerns. Whatever the reason, you need to get agreement from your manager about changes to your role so that you have a better work-life balance and greater flexibility.

Conversations at work could open up new opportunities

When we tend to rely on instant messaging, voice notes, and emails as our main way of communicating with people, we can miss out on much of the rich and meaningful potential that real, live conversations offer. We might make assumptions about how someone will respond and our written communication could be interpreted in a way we didn’t intend. Whilst it might feel safer to ask for changes to your way of working in a written format, or not even to share what’s going on and rather look for another job, stepping into a real conversation could open up opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.

As human beings, we are hard wired for connection and through talking to one another, particularly face-to-face, we create stronger relationships, and build trust. This means that when things become tricky, we have helped create the conditions and environment where we are better able to be more courageous in our conversations. Those feelings of discomfort are unlikely to ever go away, but with practice, and greater self-awareness, we can grow our conversational muscle and give ourselves more opportunities to learn and grow.

So here are four things you can do to master conversations at work:

  1. Prepare what you want to say

Think about what outcome you want to achieve. It can help to jot down a few key points before your conversation to help you stay on track. Whilst the conversation may go in a slightly different direction to what you expected, giving thought to it beforehand and knowing your intent, provides a compass to help you stay on track.

  1. Think about where you want to have the conversation

The environment in which we choose to have our conversations has a huge effect on how well we think, speak, and listen. If you want it to be confidential, find somewhere away from distractions where you feel comfortable. Don’t hold it in a café or in an open workspace.

Could you step outside and walk and talk? This adds a different dynamic to any conversation as it provides a natural way of having less eye contact and lowers intimidation and distraction factors.

  1. Consider the words you use in your conversations at work

Giving thought to the words that we choose to speak and how we form our questions and statements, makes a huge difference to the quality of any conversation.

Self-talk is important too. The words we chose to use in our head can have a significant impact. It’s important to notice the stories we tell ourselves and the labels we give ourselves. This helps us to challenge any limiting beliefs.

  1. Breathe

If you’re not used to having conversations face-to-face, especially ones that feel risky and difficult, it sounds simple, but remember to breathe. Take a moment to get a cup of coffee or take a brief stroll and collect your thoughts. If you have time, practice speaking the words out loud with a colleague, that can help too.

It’s through our conversations that we bring colour, texture, and meaning to our everyday lives. They help us to express our emotions and feelings and to share our vision and goals. It is through our conversations that we nurture our relationships, strengthen our human connections, and grow trust together.

Giving thought to how you communicate, particularly when it relates to something that’s really important and matters to you, will help ensure you have the best chance of a successful outcome. It’s a life skill and one that needs nurturing. There’s not better time than now to start.

So, let’s talk and have those conversations at work.

Conversational Wisdom by Sara Hope


Mentoring is a great way to have constructive conversations with a more experienced peer or a colleague. PA Life Club’s Mentoring Programme is free for all members to join as either a Mentor or Mentee. The Club is also free to join.

You can find out more here.