• Diana Barden

Micromastery Applied: Managing Difficult Conversations



Robert Twigger’s book of the same name, published in 2017, concentrates on how we learn personal skills that will help us in our day-to-day lives, where the motivation to learn is a given. If I want to make a delicious, light, restaurant-standard omelette to eat, or I wish to show off my stone-stacking skills on the beach to my kids, I will be motivated to keep practising, keep experimenting, keep falling down and getting back up again. How does this work in the world of work, where the motivation to learn may be more complex at best, or even lacking altogether?


We have taken the concepts of Micromastery into the world of learning and development, in our quest to help learners to acquire relevant work skills easily and quickly, in a way that ensures the new skills remain memorable and applicable. The first step is to break down a skill/activity into its constituent elements, then focus on each one before practising the inter-relationship between them.


Let’s take an example: Difficult Conversations is a popular topic just now. There are lots of dimensions and layers to this topic, lots of starting points, for example:

  • What sort of conversations do I find difficult?

  • What makes them difficult specifically?

  • What do I know/believe about the person I need to speak with?

  • What do I need to tell/ask them?

  • What if they become angry/upset/silent?

Micromastery is about learning small and learning fast; by concentrating on one small, self-contained element of the topic, we ensure the learning, practical application and feeling of success happen fast. Not only that, if the learning experience is positive, fun and fast-paced, the enthusiasm to get cracking on learning the next element is all the greater.


The starting point for a Micromastery is a problem statement: what is the problem/gap/need to be filled? An example:


What am I most worried about in the upcoming conversation with X?


Entry trick: in every Micromastery there is a trick or technique, something that people who do it well seem to do instinctively and consistently. There may be more than one entry trick, for example:

  1. Go around to their side of the table, metaphorically, and ‘see’ the world from their perspective. What do you know about their life, their interests, fears, responsibilities, skills, desires, career plans, etc.? What impact would knowing more about the person have on your concerns?

  2. Write a list of all the possible reactions you might be met with as you embark on the difficult conversation? Consider how you will deal with each – write notes.

  3. Check in with yourself: what would worry someone else if they had to have this conversation with you? How might you react?

  4. Make a list of all the assumptions/beliefs you currently have about X, about the topic of the conversation and its implications, about how you are perceived by X, how X might respond, etc. Next to each assumption, write the opposite – ie. what if my assumption were wrong, and the opposite were true? How does that change my feelings about the conversation?

Once you have carried out one (or more) entry trick, it’s all about finding opportunities to practice, experiment and get comfortable with that technique in isolation.


Look out for further blogs on Micromastery, and on using it to become more comfortable with ‘Difficult Conversations’ so by definition, they become less difficult!


Online Course – Managing Difficult Conversations


Looking for face to face or bespoke blended learning that incorporates Micromastery? Talk to us!

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