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How do you deliver tough messages?

How do you deliver tough messages effectively?

You need to get clear on the message you want to deliver. Then you figure out how to say it. Typically, miscommunication happens between the message and its delivery so today’s Life fully loved is about delivering tough messages.

Clear is Kind

Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.” Imagine how much simpler communication would be if everyone adopted this standpoint.

Here’s an illustration. One of your direct reports shows up late, again, for a monthly department meeting. In fact, you’ve gone so far as to give him an earlier time of arrival because you know he’s always late. And yet he’s late. Again.

Consider how you would handle this situation. In full saboteur mode, you would react negatively, with anger, judgement, blame, or the cold shoulder.

There’s a different way to respond, though. And in that space between message and delivery, you find it.


When you make assumptions – stories – about someone, miscommunication ensues. In the above scenario, you assumed his late arrival time based on your past experiences. As such, you assume past behaviour predicts future behaviour (which is a key premise of behavioural interviewing by the way, although that’s a story for another day).

Assumptions underline so much miscommunication in the workplace and at home. You assume to feel safe, manage expectations, and to avoid conflict.


Most people dislike confrontation. As social animals, humans want to bond, to belong to the group. Confrontation threatens belonging because there’s an anticipatory fear that you will get kicked out from the group.

Because you fear confrontation, you avoid it.

I’ve learned that avoiding the conflict, which plays out by not delivering the tough message, doesn’t make it go away; it only suppresses it. At some point, it bubbles up, often in the form of passive aggression.

Delivering Tough Messages

Delivering tough messages starts with an attitude before it’s reflected in a behaviour. In other words, it’s more about being than doing.

Humans communicate on multiple levels. The words you speak are the outcome of your thoughts and emotions, so you need to start with who you are, your being.

Returning to the late arrival story, how does it make you feel? Do you feel angry, frustrated, or resentful? That’s your clue – you’re in the bottom third of the Emotional Guidance Scale, in a negative mindset.

How do you get out of this negative cycle?

Acknowledge your feelings, then reframe.

Acknowledge then Reframe

Because emotions drive your actions, when you don’t acknowledge them, they resurface in unanticipated ways, such as passive aggression.

Acknowledging your feelings mean accepting you feel frustrated, angry, or resentful.

From there, you can begin reframing the situation differently. Ask yourself, What is the outcome I’m looking for? You may want:

  • your direct report to acknowledge his lateness;
  • a chance to voice your concerns;
  • your direct report to adhere to the cultural norms at your business (which are time-bound) as well as your expectations.

With your goal in mind, the path becomes clear.

Let’s say your goal is around arriving in a timely manner. How would you communicate that?

“John, I want you to know I’ve been thinking about this. I get frustrated when meetings don’t start on time. I’d like to change that dynamic. What can we do to bring it back in line?”

Do you see how much simpler – and more effective – this communication is?

By focusing on how you feel, you move from judgement, which puts John on the defensive, to blameless discernment, which is about solution-finding.

Clear is kind.

Header Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You have to be open minded in order to grow. The coaching that Laura gave me opened my eyes to what and how I was doing things and allowed me to see the bigger picture. I am not done yet but I already see the changes in my everyday life.


I think coaching is a great way to help you clear your mind when you get stuck with overwhelming situations or when stepping into changes in your life.


Coaching is life changing. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.  It is highly motivating and the exercises and techniques used are both fun and informative.  I think the main benefits of coaching are to see yourself, others and the world more clearly.  I think coaching is valuable to anyone regardless of where you are in your life or career.


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Laura is very patient. She took the time to understand what was causing me to be stuck where I am today and help me build a better vision so I can continue to grow.


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