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Difficult Conversations
On Difficult Conersations - Kanako Okuda
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Having difficult conversations is essential in social work - but they can evoke our anxiety.  Choosing an approach that suits you is the first step.  Knowing when and how to have such conversations can help you prepare for challenging situations.

Having difficult conversations is a way for individuals or communities to get to know one another in a meaningful way.

Having Difficult Conversations in Field Education

Difficult Conversations in Field - Ovita Williams, LCSW
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When does it come up?

Addressing Differences

Field education is designed for you to meet with people you would not otherwise meet. "Differences" come up frequently, and the way you address them can help you form meaningful relationships.

Confronting the "Blind Spots"

"Blind spots" include instances when you or others fail to include others, or act as if someone is not there. When it is apparent that some people are left out, you can gently suggest that they be included in the conversation. Social workers give voice to those who need help. 

About "Taboos"

Distinct from "blind spots," "taboos" are subjects that we avoid addressing. In doing so, we almost always marginalize some people. Social workers do address and talk about taboos, in order to improve life for all. 


You don't mean to offend or be offended by someone. When this happens, it is worth communicating your intentions and/or what others' actions meant to you.

Sources: Burghardt, DeSuze, Bryant, & Vinjamuri (2018); Bogo (2018); Glassman (2016); Hendricks, Finch, & Franks (2013).

Tips for Having Difficult Conversations

  • Notice and embrace your intentions: You are here to learn, not to criticize others.

  • Let go of being "right," and stay curious.

  • Ask questions and listen attentively to what others say. 

  • Share your thoughts in ways others can hear.

  • You don't have to like what you hear.

  • Stay open and respectful.

  • End the conversation after everyone has spoken and has been recognized.

  • It is okay not to end with an agreement.

  • Do not slam the door (or the chair).

  • Good job having the conversation!


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