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Women at Work: Handling Difficult Conversations With Confidence

Woman handling difficult conversations at work

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Summary: Work conversations can be difficult. They are even more so for women. Here are three things to help you to handle conversations with confidence.

There are so many things women are badass at — like putting on makeup while driving to work (we didn’t say driving well, though…); holding our keys, phone, laptop, files, and coffee all in one hand while rushing to the next meeting; and taking care of a baby at the United Nations General Assembly (we’re looking at you, Jacinda Ardern).

But there are days when even Wonder Woman feels less than wondrous at work. Sometimes, her interactions (like with nemeses General Erich Ludendorff and Cheetah) need as much help as Steve Trevor did when his plane crashed off the Themysciran coast.

Finding the right words can be difficult, even for superheroes, especially when the conversation is awkward and uncomfortable. But here are three ways you can master handling difficult conversations at your workplace.

Woman at A Fest Ibiza speaking with conviction

1. Fear Is Your Friend

It can be scary to confront situations that are outside of your comfort zone. That includes uncomfortable conversations, like termination, harassment, inequality, and mansplaining.

But hey, if Wonder Woman can do it, so can you.

You might view her and other super females as these strong, fearless, empowering superheroes. But what makes them so damn incredible is that they work with their fear, not against it.

You see, a sense of fear helps us react to things that could potentially harm us. That’s just part of nature.

However, more often than not, we give fear power and make it a villain. So much so that our forebrain finds it hard to override the reaction of our amygdala (where emotions are given meaning and attached to emotional memories) to tell us there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Joanne Cantor, a professor at Wisconsin University explains, “we’re afraid of something with such power that it’s beyond our ability to control, and our conscious mind can’t reverse that.”

How to handle the fear of having the conversation

What if fear is tired of being the bad guy? What if it just wants to be considered one of the good guys for a change? What if you flip the script and consider fear as your trusty sidekick?

Lisa Nichols, CEO of Motivate the Masses and author of Mindvalley’s Speak & Inspire Quest, explains when you feel fear, keep in mind these three things:

  1. Fear is informing you. This emotion is like the others and when you use it correctly, it feeds you information to say “go get more information about that topic so you feel more powerfully.”

    It’s what you do with it that will make all the difference in your world. So, allow it to inform you and listen.
  1. Fear makes up stories. And they’re stories that haven’t happened yet or might not ever happen. But fear makes you create one in your head.

    For example, you’re afraid you’re going to get hurt in the relationship you’re in now. It hasn’t happened yet, but you’re projecting it into your future.

    Invite yourself to make up another story — one that will empower you to succeed instead of feeding into anxiety.
  1. Fear of failing is actually okay because failing is okay. Lisa adds, “when you give yourself permission to fail, you actually give yourself permission to fly.”

    If you won’t take the leap because you’re terrified of failing, then you’ll never fail. But also, you also won’t ever fly.

2. Speak With Conviction

There’s a difference between the way females talk versus males. While boys talk up their authority, girls tend to downplay theirs. 

Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, explains, “if [girls] talk in ways that play up the fact that there may be a leader in the group or that they think they’re good at something, the other girls will criticize them.” 

She adds that in the workplace, many women in leadership positions will find ways to not seem too bossy and downplay their authority.

How to handle the conversation with conviction

Enter challenging conversations with conviction. Lisa Nichols, trainer of Mindvalley’s Speak & Inspire Quest, explains it’s about mindset before technique. She highlights two things:

  1. Identify the impact you want to make. If you answered, “I want them to see my point,” we totally feel you. While that is the agenda for most conversations, you need to understand who you’re talking to, what situation you’re dealing with, and plan out your conversation accordingly.

    Begin with the end of the conversation in mind. Imagine you delivered your message with power, grace, and ease. Now…

    How do your listeners feel? Did you leave them inspired? What do people get as a result of you opening your mouth?

    Get clear on these particular outcomes and then, speak to create the outcomes.
  1. Make your conviction contagious. When you’re passionate about your message and transparent about it, people feel they can connect with you.

    For example, Lisa often speaks about how much weight she’s lost. Many of her listeners have come up to her and told her how much they related to that particular message of hers.

    It’s a level of connection that increased the impact of her message. And it can do that for you.
Lisa Nichols speaking to disrupt

3. Be Disrupted In Order to Disrupt

Unfortunately, the reality is “by age 13, girls lose one-third of their confidence,” as highlighted by Kathy Caprino, career coach and author of The Most Powerful You.

In her recent sitdown on Mindvalley’s Superhumans At Work podcast, she talked about a study that compared a woman saying “I don’t agree with the direction the team is going here” in a boardroom meeting versus a man saying the same. It found the audiences viewed the woman as “exponentially less competent and less valuable in dollars than the man.”


It’s time for a disruption.

So, say this with us: your voice matters. Say it again, your voice matters.

Granted, you may be here to find a way to deal with an upcoming challenging conversation. But the truth is, it’s probably not your first one. And it will definitely not be your last.

How to make the conversation

This is your opportunity to understand that in order for you to handle conversations like a bawse and move people with your story, you need to be disrupted. (Yes, this is a total “Oh, damn!” moment.)

  1. Be disrupted. Allow yourself to transform into someone who truly believes that their voice matters, what they say matters, and who they impact matters.

Every day, you’re writing your legacy by the way you live. You’re writing your legacy by the way you speak because your words are shaping your life, shaping your experiences. Your experiences are shaping your life. Your life is shaping your legacy.

— Lisa Nichols
  1. Now, disrupt. You might be afraid to be judged or offend someone. However, when you speak, your voice allows you to disrupt your mediocrity and empower others to use their own voice.

Using Your Voice Despite the Consequences

When you handle conversations with confidence, be prepared for the consequences. Because more often than not, when there’s a disruption in the status quo, you’re going to find resistance. You’re going to find people who are adamant about fighting you.

But know this: your voice isn’t about talking, yelling, screaming, commanding, or being authoritative. It’s about articulating your truth with the confidence that empowers you and those around you to have a successful, fulfilling career.

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Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Lisa Nichols, founder of Motivating the Masses
Expertise by

Lisa Nichols is recognized as one of the world’s leading speaking coaches, renowned for her dynamic communication skills that rank her alongside oratory legends. Her breakthrough came on the Oprah Winfrey Show, leading to global media appearances and viral internet fame.

Lisa’s journey began in hardship as a single mom in South Central L.A., struggling to make ends meet with only $11.42 to her name. Rising from these challenges, she transformed her life and now dedicates herself to empowering others. Through her non-profit, Motivating the Teen Spirit, she has impacted over 270,000 teens and prevented thousands of teen suicides.

Her influential role in the documentary The Secret spurred requests for her to teach her unique communication style, establishing her as a premier public speaking coach. Today, Lisa impacts 80 million people annually through her appearances and platforms.

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