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10 steps to winning difficult conversations — the ones you really don’t’ want to have!

Whether it’s confronting your boss, a member of staff, your Mum, your child’s teacher or the plumber who promised to finish the shower 2 weeks ago, difficult conversations aren’t easy.

I’ve coached thousands to have those icky conversations that you put off. Here’s your quick guide on how to have those tough conversations, get the result you want and ensure both parties leave happy.

1. Assume good.

When you think about the conversation you don’t want to have, you are assuming there is going to be swearing, doors slammed, bad words, tears, smashed plates and someone hating you for eternity. The fact is that this rarely happens, but your brain is in charge, and you have let it run crazy wild like a 5 year old on too much candy.

Stop and think about what you want to see happen. I am going to teach you how to have win win conversations and relationships — even with the passive aggressive pain that knows how to provoke you.

2. Plan your outcome.

What do you want to see happen and don’t be unrealistic here. Ideally you want every conversation to end with a win win conversation building a win win relationship (I learnt about those from Bob Burg — check him out, great guy.) You don’t want to see them burn in the fiery pits of hell for all time — that level of negative emotion won’t do you any favours. What would be the end result you want?

3. Match — but not like your weird.

I teach a lot of people about how to communicate powerfully, whether it’s closing a deal, a networking event or getting a teacher to listen to your concerns about your child. And one way to get some on your side is to match them. Consider;

How fast do they speak?

Do they use one level or vary it?

How loud are they?

Do they pause?

Are they sat forward or back (Yes this still applies on Zoom and understanding this gives you an edge in online communication!)

Do they sit still or are they all jazz hands and big body movements?

What style of words do they like? Do they say things like “I see what you are saying” or “I hear you” or “I feel you aren’t listening to me.”

You can use this information to build rapport but a word of caution, over do this and you can look very creepy, and that other person is backing out of the room like you’re a psychopath.

Done gently you can make people feel listened to. Using phrases like “I hear where you are coming from” when they’ve used auditory language is a subtle way of connecting. People that are very good at communication naturally do this and you can learn to do it well too. Not sure on this one? Comment on my mastermind group and I will guide you.

4. Sacrifice.

To do well in difficult conversations know where your boundaries lie. What would you accept at the minimum? What would push you too far and make you walk away? Know in advance where you will give a little.

5. Internal confidence.

Note the word internal. There is a big difference between internal confidence and external confidence. One doesn’t’ alter on a good day or a bad, and the other does. If you build your inner confidence you can deal with difficult conversations a lot easier. I’ve so many strategies to do this, start with the why I’m Awesome Doc — write down on an A4 piece of paper on both sides, why you are awesome. Often there is a gap between what you believe to be true and the facts. This document helps bridge that gap. So don’t hide the finished document away!

6. But Mandie, what are they thinking!

You’ve got to worry less about what others are thinking. I know that’s easier said than done and I spent my life dealing with corporate team’s internal dialogue and business owners fears about what people might think of them. If it really worries you — ask them. Stop assuming and ask. But by building your internal confidence you can handle anything that people are thinking, because let’s be honest there are billions of people on this planet — you aren’t going to get on with them all.

7. State the facts.

To do this you need to know them in advance. Take out the emotions and word the facts before the session. Fact — You said X would happen and it has not. Fact “We agreed on X and not Y.” It’s not easy taking the emotion out of it so know your facts in advance.

8. Ditch the why

Coaching style questions are genius for getting people to do what you want them to do. They take away judgement and opinion and enable honest dialogue. For instance ditch any conversation that starts with “Why” and swap it to “What are the reasons this has……” this enables people to speak without believing you’re judging them — even if you are! I’ve got tons of awesome questions you can ask. Head to my website to learn some crackers or message me. But pre difficult meeting play out some questions to ask and some phrases to ditch.


Before you meet, what do you want to see happen next. It is one thing to know the outcome you want but what will be the steps to get you there? What would you like that to look like? Laying this out in black and white means there can be no “Oh I didn’t think you meant that” Passive aggressive types and those that aren’t going to listen no matter how compelling your argument will be good at moving the goal posts, so be crystal clear on what they are. Make sure they are put in writing if necessary and don’t be frightened to set a date to revisit the difficult conversation. You can do this now. Difficult conversations aren’t going to hold you back, are they? And lastly…

10.Stop talking

A big mistake people make in negotiations and in difficult conversation is they keep talking. Stop talking. State what you want to say, make them feel heard (repeat back what they’ve said to help them feel heard using the matching language) tell them where the boundaries lie and what you want to see happen next and then stop talking. This is powerful because people hate silence. When I get people to stand on a stage and say a sentence and then be quiet for 2 seconds, they rarely manage it, because seconds seem to take hours! So, if you stop talking, they will start. If you have stated your position, said what you want to see happen next, now let them talk. There may be an awkward silence but if you can become comfortable with awkward silence like a 1970’s library you will win. If it helps you can count the seconds — how long will you wait?

As always let me know how you get on, feel free to like this post and share it and ensure you are following me for the next one.

Got something you need help with?
Email me or connect on social media and I will write something especially for you — no one will know that.

  • February 5, 2022

Role models – why bother?

For all of my adult life I’ve had role models, although I had no idea I did or the impact they were having!

As a child my role model was Ms Carter. My history teacher, my school mentor (we used to have those and that was awesome!) and introducer to Annie Lennox (which then followed a brief obsession to go with my love of black and mens shirts…

But I digress.

In my twenties I found a brief unsettling time where I looked around a soulless office of 50+ people and few people inspired me, don’t get me wrong there were nice people, but no one I could turn to and ask “how did you do that?” or think “Wow, aren’t they awesome!”

Thankfully I have been in tune with my emotional intelligence and worked on my mindset since my late teens mandie holgate leadership coaching and spotted the damage this environment was doing to me and quickly I was back in the groove and my role models were all men.

While I know many will be disheartened by this, I wasn’t. (Back then.)

It was the early 90’s and I had lived a life where my parents, peers and colleagues just accepted everyone for who they were (lucky right?) So I didn’t really know anything about the ism’s that plague our 21st Century world (and the happiness and success we experience as a result!)

Ultimately it meant that I just saw the ethics, characteristics, communication techniques, attitudes, beliefs, etc of these business men and implanted them and it led to me being one of the youngest female body shop managers in the automotive industry – it had never occurred to me that my body could impact on the way I was viewed in the world or what I could do!

Jump forward to Mummyhood and of course my Mum was my role model as was my Nan, both awesome matriarchs, that cooked everything from scratch, taught us to read long before school, listened to every inane question (no matter how many we asked) and helped us to grow into adults.

When I returned to work as a coach over 14 years ago I decided very consciously that I needed to find someone to look up to.

To inspire me.

To motivate me.

To enable me to challenge my beliefs and perceived limitations.

I knew that if I was going to achieve big, make a success of my own business and achieve some ambitious goals, I’d need that.

But that’s where I realised my role model world was lacking. The ism’s where here and with a young daughter as well as a son I found myself asking “Where are the female role models?” “Is this going to impact on me and the next generation and more importantly what can we do about it?” Okay so you probably know I’m the Founder of the multi award winning The Business Womans Network and Founder of The Business Womans Networkthat made a massive difference to me.

Back then I was petrified of public speaking (I mean so scared I would leave the room rather than talk and I severely lacked confidence – yes my self confident appearance and self belif is self taught and yes it means I feel epicly confident to say I can rocket anyone’s self confidence.)

So my role models were amazing business women like Dinah Liversidge (who is coming back to the BWN this year) who taught me about reputation and credibility. Mary Keightley who taught me about power and the hidden communications that damage so many people’s success and then there are people like Susan Pattrick who I’ve always admired for her tenacity, dedication and determination to change the world for disabled people. (I’ve just thought I wonder if they know how big an impact they’ve had on my career!)

However as my own career soared I found that the people that I still admire weren’t right for me as role models.

How could that be?

Did Susan, Dinah and Mary stop being awesome? Did they stop inspiring me? No of course not. But I wanted more, but what?

I’m someone that wouldn’t be committed to coaching and it’s power if I didn’t have coaching and mentoring too and over the past few years I’ve really struggled to find the right role model for me as I’ve worked on my goals and success.

Yes, there’s Oprah (who doesn’t love Oprah!)

And Yes there’s Michelle Obama, but it wasn’t right for some reason.

I started to get hints of who would motivate inspire me in the most bizarre ways. (I like to put it out there, that I’m looking for something and it usually turns up!) Thanks to Lupus and the need to rest and severe insomnia caused by the medications I get to see some awesome documentaries on BBC1 in the middle of the night. Check out Stacey Cunningham the first female President of the New York Stock Exchange in 226 years!

And what a story about Billy jean king and her world view changing tennis match against Sexist Misogynistic“Women are weaker and not worth the ticket price or prize money in tennis” Bobby Riggs (Interestingly for me the match was four days before I was born!)

But still not quite right. So I kept searching until they magically appeared (don’t you love that?)

Of course it wasn’t magic. It was clear visualisation (and not day dreaming) it was;

  • What do I want my role models to do for me?
  • How will they impact on my personal and professional life?
  • What do I want them to represent?
  • How have they changed the world? (Metaphorically, locally, nationally, internationally, industry wise.)

And they aren’t exactly your standard role models. I realised I was looking for role models in main stream ways. With the media’s take on the world (something I’m never keen to rely on.) And that wasn’t enough. I needed to think more abstract.

Me at the house of lords.

Bring forth my role models!

The Cutty Sark – my family are from Greenwich, my grandfather and my great grandfather where in the merchant navy and I’ve a deep love and fascination with the sea. Hence my love of this stunning ship. Check out this ships history and you will see a stunning state of the art ship, at the forefront of the tea runs, changing history, an entrepreneurial spirit to inspire and yet facing such adversity how the heck did it ever survive and not get scuttled like so many other ships?

(It reminds me of my tenacity and determination to achieve anything I wish to. Fire, murder, Icebergs, innovative ideas to overcome extreme situations, the Cutty Sark went through them all! Yep she does it for me.)

Then there’s Leonardo Da Vinci – This man was a master of so many things and yet experienced a plethora of failures, criticism, harsh opinion, even forced to leave his home country but yet he is remembered (and with due cause) as someone that has changed the world. Do you know there are many inventions to this day that have not been bettered from Da Vinci’s original designs? Now that’s awesome!

And lastly my final role models are private to me. They are some of the women that I spend my life working with. I think I dedicate this article to them, because we rarely appreciate the power we have to influence positively those around us. As such they will remain private to ensure they continue to work so powerfully for me.

ACTION; Take just 5 minutes today to ask yourself;

  • Who are my role models?
  • Why are they my role models?
  • How do they positively influence, empower, impact and inspire my life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading. I’m over on social media a lot and love to talk and hear your thoughts, problems and stories, so do feel free to connect.

  • January 8, 2019