What makes the biggest difference in a difficult conversation?

Listening to a podcast this morning the host told a story about a lesson he learned from a pro-golfer. The pro said the one way to improve your game was to practice until you can make a 3-foot putt 50 times from the same spot without missing. Putting is about 41% of the game and most puts are within 3 feet of the hole. If all you do is master this single shot, you will reduce your score by 20 to 25%.

It struck me the same is true for a difficult conversation. The conversation is won or lost in how it begins. Start with a statement that describes why you value the relationship you have with the other person and why the conversation is important, and you are off to a great start. Start with a question or derogatory remark and it is doomed to failure. In his research with couples, John Gottman, found he can predict the outcome of a conversation with 96% accuracy, simply but how it begins.

Want my tip sheet for opening lines for difficult conversations? Just ask and I will send it your way.