Facilitating Difficult Conversations Between Adult Learners

Educator facilitates a difficult conversation between and among adult learners.
Made by Hope Street Group and Learning Forward

About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Educator incorporates the skills associated with effective facilitation strategies into difficult conversations.

Method Components

Effective Facilitation Strategies

Educator must include the following:

  • Identifying the root cause of various types of conflict
    • Ask why a position is important.
    • Identify underlying issues
    • Separate the problem from the people involved
    • Ensure differences are fully explained, heard, and understood
    • Make interests explicit
    • Understand the change process and ensure that there is an appropriate plan in place to implement change strategies to reduce potential conflict
  • Acknowledging differences, admitting conflict, and responding to conflict as it arises
    • Be willing to address conflicts in a timely fashion
    • Facilitate feedback processes with colleagues in a way that is productive
    • Gather data and evidence to use in feedback dialogue or when managing conflict
    • Use evidence to engage learners in constructive conversations
    • Listen nonjudgmentally
    • Recognize that we can be different and hold different perspectives and continue to work together successfully
    • Recognize that conflict does not have to be personal, territorial, or emotional.
    • Ensure differences are fully explained, heard, and understood
    • Stay calm and stay engaged
    • Learn more about the speaker’s intentions and prior experiences
    • Separate the problem from the people involved
    • Use positive presuppositions that presume a person has ability, a positive attitude, and positive intention
  • Managing resistance
    • Understand possible reasons for resistance
    • Reduce resistance by responding to the needs that people have
    • Anticipate and appropriately manage opposing points of view and challenging behavior
    • Seek out and motivate colleagues
    • Respect those who resist
    • Stay calm and stay engaged
    • Learn more about the speaker’s intentions
    • Refocus stakeholders on areas of agreement
    • Separate the problem from the people involved
    • Identify commonalities and state interests in terms that are mutually acceptable
    • Do not make decisions or problem-solve until differences are fully explained, heard, and understood

And, should include at least two of the following:

  • Building trust
  • Honoring diversity
  • Understanding how individuals perceive situations
  • Maintaining a calm demeanor, even in the face of conflict
  • Staying engaged
  • Identifying the hopes, fears, and interests of conversation participants
  • Seeking to understand
  • Acknowledging and clarifying meaning
  • Summarizing and organizing what has been stated
  • Utilize protocols that guide difficult conversations (for example, tools included in books by Scott, Abrams, Killion, and Stone, Patton, & Heen)

Further Implementation Strategies

In order to implement identifying (the root cause of) various types of conflict, use the following prompts:

To adapt to conflict as it arises, use the following prompts:

  • As you examinedó(the data)ówhat are some of your findings? What has been your past experience with this issue?
  • When you think about ____________ (insert topic), what strategies might be most appropriate?
  • While you monitor ________ (the topic or data), what are some indicators of success you could apply?
  • In considering the strategy/ies), how did you decide _____________ (the action) was the best for__________ (the context/situation)?

To manage resistance, use the following prompts:

  • What is the underlying cause of the resistance?
  • Define the issue in terms of common interests. Use open ended statements: “How can weó?” or “What can be done toó?”)
  • What causes your hesitation in this proposal? What about this idea concerns you?
  • What is causing or underlying the issue/conflict from your perspective?
  • What triggered your belief in this path or solution?
  • What data/evidence are you using that gives you confidence in this path or solution?

To acknowledge differences, admit conflict, and respond to conflict as it arises, use the following prompts:

  • Brainstorm key hopes and fears for __________.
  • Share data/evidence that you are using to support your position.
  • You just made several key pointsó
  • There are three different proposals on the table right now. Let’s work together to outline themó
  • There are several different perspectives that have been identified. Let’s unpack each one, identifying the advantages and challenges that each provides.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Abrams, J. (2009). Having Hard Conversations. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.
  • Covey, S. (2008). The Speed of Trust. New York: Free Press.
  • Ellis, D. (2002)._ Falling Awake. Rapid City, Iowa: Breakthrough Enterprises.
  • Fullan, M. (1996). Leadership for Change. In International Handbook of Educational Leadership and Administration (pp. 701-722). Netherlands: Springer Publishing.
  • Gardner, H. (2006). Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds (Leadership for the Common Good). Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.
  • Killion, J. (2015). The Feedback Process: Transforming Feedback for Professional Learning. Dallas, Texas: Learning Forward.
  • Maurer, R. (2010). Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Why 70% of All Changes Still Fail—and What You Can Do About It (revised edition). Austin, Texas: Bard Press.
  • Maurer, R. (1996). Caught in the Middle. New York: Productivity Press.
  • Scott, S. (2004). Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time. New York: Berkley Books.
  • Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (2010). Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Penguin.


Additional resources are available via Dropbox. To access them, email tabitha@hopestreetgroup.org

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3, and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview questions

500-word limit for each response

  • Why did you choose to implement the effective facilitation strategies?
  • Specifically, why did you choose any of the following strategies in particular (pick two):
    • built trust;
    • honored diversity;
    • understood how individuals lierceive situations;
    • maintained a calm demeanor (even in the face of conflict);
    • stayed engaged;
    • identified the hopes, fears, and interests of conversation participants;
    • sought to understand;
    • acknowledged and clarified meaning;
    • summarized and organized what was stated;
    • and/or utilized protocols that guided difficult conversations (see the tools included in books by Scott, Abrams, Killion, and Stone, Patton, & Heen).

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

Educator demonstrates the use of effective strategies for managing and facilitating a difficult conversation.

Video must include all of the following: identifying the root cause of different types of conflict; adapting to conflict as it arises; managing resistance; acknowledging differences; and admitting conflict

and at least two of the following: building trust; honoring diversity; understanding how individuals perceive situations; maintaining calm demeanor (even in the face of conflict); staying engaged; identifying the hopes, fears, and interests of conversation participants, seeking to understand; acknowledging and clarifying meaning; summarizing and organizing what has been stated; and utilizing protocols that guide difficult conversations. Identify clearly which two you used.

Note: One video generally cannot demonstrate all of these strategies.

Part 3. Reflection

500-word limit for each response

  • Reflect on how the incorporation of this competency has affected your current practice with colleagues and students.
  • Also reflect on how incorporation of this competency changed your level of confidence relative to dealing with potentially contentious situations with colleagues, school leaders, or district leaders

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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