Skip to main content

Dealing With Difficult Conversations

About This Course

Difficult conversations are just that — difficult.

But with proper preparation, execution and follow-up, you can approach even the toughest conversations with confidence. You'll learn about different conflict-resolution styles (with explanations of when to use each) and identify your own style. We'll also show you how to deal with any unexpected turns the conversation takes.

This course will arm you with the tools you need to get from start to finish.

A difficult conversation is a lot like walking a tightrope. It can strike fear in the hearts of the uninitiated. But with proper preparation, execution and follow-up, you can approach even the toughest conversations with confidence.

What Will I Learn?

Upon completing this course, you will know how to:

  • Identify the factors that should be considered before conducting a difficult conversation
  • Choose appropriate opening lines, responses and closing comments during the conversation
  • Create an effective follow-up plan tailored to the situation

Who Should Take This Course?

Editors, producers, newsroom leaders, department heads, managers and just about anyone who has to have a difficult conversation.

Course Instructor

Jill Geisler

Jill Geisler

Jill Geisler heads the leadership and management programs at The Poynter Institute. She teaches managers – from aspiring to veteran – how to help people do their best work. She brings humor and humanity plus a research-based, realistic approach to teaching leadership skills and values. She is the author of Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, based on her What Great Bosses Know podcasts on iTunes U, which have been downloaded millions of times by people across the world who want to build their skills as managers. Geisler also is the instructor of several courses at Poynter's NewsU, including Dealing with Difficult Conversations and Lousy Listeners: How to Avoid Being One. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillgeisler.

Geisler joined Poynter in 1998 after a 25-year career in broadcast journalism. She was the country’s first female news director of a major market network affiliate and built an award-winning newsroom culture at WITI in Milwaukee, her home town. Hers was a teaching newsroom, where coaching and collaboration were as important as ethics and enterprise.

She is the author of numerous articles on journalism leadership issues and writes What Great Bosses Know columns for She has led programs for the Knight and Nieman Fellows, minority journalism organizations, the Radio-TV Digital News Association, Public Radio News Directors and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She teaches and consults in news organizations, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Oregonian, along with an array of television stations and station groups in the U.S. and abroad.

Geisler was the University of Wisconsin Journalism School’s 1972 “Outstanding Journalism Graduate,” and recipient of its 2004 Distinguished Service in Journalism award. She earned a master's degree in Leadership and Liberal Studies from Duquesne University in 2004.

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, or with Internet Explorer version 9 and above.

See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.

  1. Course Number

  2. Classes Start

  3. Estimated Effort

    3 to 4 hours