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Continuing Studies

Communication Skills for Challenging Conversations

continuingstudies.wisc.edu/0838-C-LAAS See upcoming dates


This class is four days, offered in a participatory live-online format.

This class is open to anyone interested in the topic. It is also a required part of the Mid-Level Management Certificate (MLMC). Get more information on the MLMC.

In an instant, any conversation can become a challenging one. Learn how to handle difficult interpersonal conversations at work and to listen and be assertive without weakening relationships. Develop a framework to better understand the complex nature of interpersonal communication and explore why misunderstanding is so normal. Apply the skills learned to conflict resolution and giving performance feedback — possibly the most difficult conversations managers have.


Learning objectives

  • Understand why misunderstanding is the norm in communication and what to do about it
  • Identify your default communication style and learn strategies for flexing your style
  • Explore multiple specific techniques for managing the moment when the going gets tough; avoiding fight or flight
  • Review a dozen listening skills including some advanced skills especially useful in difficult conversations
  • Apply guidelines for expressing your feelings without triggering defensiveness in others
  • Examine best practice steps for effective conflict resolution and giving challenging work feedback
  • Analyze case studies and video examples to recognize what to do and what to avoid in challenging conversations

Basic outline

  1. The fundamental nature of human communication
  2. Why misunderstanding is the norm
  3. Perceptual filters
  4. The elements and importance of non-verbal communication
  5. Communication styles and how and why to flex your style
  6. Gender communication differences, research, and change
  7. Emotional Intelligence, why all the attention and how to build it
  8. Multiple techniques for "managing the moment" and keeping our cool
  9. 12 listening skills, review, practice, and some advanced skills
  10. Avoiding advice-giving too soon, too much
  11. Conflict resolution and giving challenging feedback; best practice steps
  12. Strategies for dealing with defensiveness
  13. Benefits of feedback
  14. Descriptive recognition/praise
  15. Creating agreements about challenging conversations

Overview: Extra Information

SHRM Recertification Provider 2022 seal

Division of Continuing Studies is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®.

Earn Continuing Education Hours

By participating in this class you will earn:

Instructional Hours 12
University of Wisconsin Continuing Education Units 1.2

Explanation of Continuing Education Hours

Upcoming dates (1)

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Program Questions?

Contact info@dcs.wisc.edu or 608-262-1156

Registration Questions?

Email registrations@pyle.wisc.edu or call 608-262-2451.

Continuing Studies FAQs

Meet your instructor

Laura Page

Laura V. Page (MS, UW-Madison; MS-J, Northwestern Univ.) is the area director for the leadership and management programs at UW-Madison Continuing Studies. Page was an independent management consultant for more than two decades and is a frequent seminar instructor, staff retreat planner and keynote speaker.

What Attendees Are Saying

Laura has an excellent grasp of the subject matter and her teaching style kept me engaged. I came away more enlightened and with enhanced skills for performing my functions as a manager and team leader.
John Livick, Energy Program Manager, Community Action, Inc.
Excellent! Laura presented creative ideas for maintaining effective relationships with colleagues and clients. She blended storytelling, research, and exercises to give our diverse group the tools to immediately begin improving.
Mackenzie Blazick, Epic Systems
Great practical tools to provide feedback to employees and also how to actively listen!
Frederick Hobbs, Domtar Corporation
This course is so incredible and applicable to my work. Laura is a gem. Highly recommend.
Eleanor Jacobson, AkitaBox, Inc.
This course fostered a greater personal understanding and provided real-world examples that I will be able to use during my day-to-day conversations.
Greg Moeller, Wisconsin DNR