From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations

From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations

This On-Demand event was originally presented on August 9, 2023 (60 min)


Hard conversations are made harder by challenging behaviors that derail your conversations.  You’re already stressed about having the conversation and it only creates more frustration.  And now you feel more overwhelmed and lost at how to proceed.  In this webinarlearn expert tips and strategies to address difficult behaviors head-on, diffuse tension, and build rapport.  You’ll walk away with tangible ways to both prevent these behaviors as well as proven techniques to navigate challenging interactions with confidence and achieve positive outcomes.

Attendees will learn

  • How to identify difficult behaviors
  • Techniques to prevent difficult behaviors
  • Practical strategies to de-escalate and manage challenging behaviors
  • Scripts for addressing behaviors and fostering positive outcomes
  • How to build rapport and create meaningful connections, even in challenging interactions


Chris Wong is a licensed therapistcertified executive coach, and Founder, Owner of Leadership Potential ⇗, where he helps leaders develop confident communication skills in challenging situations and relationships. Chris has overseen leadership and organizational development at a non-profit in the Northeast USHis work included training and coaching for leaders at all levels of the organization to both strengthen and build a leadership pipeline.

Chris also works with HR, L&D, and nonprofit leaders around difficult conversations, conflict resolution, building powerful relationships, leadership development, productivity, and leading change, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. 


From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations
Leadership Potential

I work with small to mid-sized HR and business leaders to help them get out of the weeds and get more strategic in their roles.  I offer coaching, training, and consultation, and help leaders get things done.

Learn more at

From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations
Mastering Difficult Conversations: Developing confident communication skills for challenging situations

This LeadershipPotential course was specifically designed to help those who have trouble navigating difficult conversations in their personal and/or in their professional life.

If you find yourself feeling stuck at important personal or professional milestones—this self-paced online course can help guide you through some of the roadblocks and pitfalls preventing you from mastering your confidence.

Get 10% off with code: HRDQ 

On-Demand Webinar Recording
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Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors and Tough Conversations, hosted by HRDQ-U and presented by Chris Wong. My name is Sarah and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions or comments, please type them into the questions box on your GoToWebinar control panel, will be using that a lot today. So, if you can actually find that questions box, drop enough, allow where you’re coming from. Just get you comfortable with using that there. And, you can also download today’s handouts, and that will be available under the handouts drop-down on your control panel as well.
And today’s webinar is sponsored by the Leadership Potential and HRDQ. The Leadership Potential works with small to mid-size HR and business leaders, to help them get out of the weeds and get more strategic in their roles. Offering coaching, training, and consultation to help leaders get things done, learn more at And for 45 years, HRDQ has provided research-based, off the shelf soft skills training resources for classroom, virtual, and online training. From assessments and workshops to experiential hands-on games, HRDQ helps improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and more. You can learn more at
And now I’d like to welcome our presenter today, Chris Wong. Chris is a licensed therapist, Certified Executive Coach, and Founder of Leadership Potential, where he helps leaders develop competent communication skills in challenging situations and relationships.
Chris has overseen leadership and organizational development at non-profit in the northeast United States. His work includes training and coaching for leaders at all levels of the organization to strengthen and build a leadership pipeline.
Chris also works with HR, L&D, and non-profit leaders around difficult conversations, conflict resolution, and building powerful relationships, leadership development, productivity, and leading change, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Chris. And I get a chance to check out the questions box. But we have lots of people chiming in from Oliver saying, Hello today.
And Yes, Lidia, that is the questions box. And now, Chris, I’ll pass it over to you.
Great, thanks, I’m glad to be here. I’m outside Boston.
So, it’s great to see everybody all over the US, And it’s afternoon here, so, good afternoon, good morning to those of you on the West Coast. Good to see you all. Before I jump into it, I would love to just learn more about kind of what you’re hoping to get out of this today.
So, I want you to go to the same questions box that Sarah talked about, And I just want you to put in what behaviors stress you out in hard conversations. And so, I’m gonna cover some, but I want to make sure that you get some value out of it, So I’ll include those as we go forward.
So, I’ve seen it belligerents combativeness, wining, aggressiveness, defensiveness, interrupting behaviors. Yes. Yeah.
Yep. Lack of engagement. Lack of accountability, acceptance, Defensiveness. Yes.
I see that that sure does happen.
When they deflect, when they stray from the topic aggressive behaviors.
Crying. Yeah.
Refusing to communicate, yep.
So this is not in my presentation having the same conversation multiple times, but I think that’s come up a couple of times now. Accountability, having the same conversation. So, I’m going to include that because I think it’s important. So, it sounds like it’s something that’s bothering at least a few people. And I know that’s bothered me for a long time.
Accountability? Yep.
Escalated voice, strong personalities. Yeah, that’s great.
All right, I love it. Go above your head to the next level Supervisor, Ooph.
That’s a tough on how to be honest, kind and direct.
Child is behavior. Yeah, all of these, all a lot of these we will cover, for sure.
Being or so, that’s great.
So, what I want to do, also, I want to present to you a scenario.
Let’s say that you are now a family therapist.
You are suddenly wandered into an alternate universe, and you are a alt A Now, you are a family therapist, and you have your choice of two families to work with.
You can work with family one, where they come in, and everybody is essentially very quiet. They’re ignoring each other.
They’re not talking with each other, and you have a choice between that family, too, where everybody comes in and they’re yelling at you, they’re just screaming, they’re yelling, they’re having a hard time.
So, I’m gonna put, I’m gonna ask Sarah to put up a poll.
I want to know which family would you rather work with Family one or Family two?
And the poll is launched. So, we’ll give you some time here to answer.
I see lots of responses coming in. We’ll give you 10 more seconds here to submit your answer before we get the results up on the screen. The family one is the one that’s ignoring each other.
They’re not talking family to the one that comes in and they just yell at each other the entire time screaming, blaming all that stuff, maybe even blaming you.
Great. Let’s get those results up on a screen now.
Half half, that’s not bad, 54% fail it to 46% family one. Well, I’ll tell you what.
I, I spent many years working as a licensed therapist, and I did a lot of family therapy ads.
By far, family two is much better to work with. They’re much easier to work with overall.
Because if somebody, if people are yelling each other, if they’re passionate enough, and, if they’re emotionally invested enough to yell at one another to scream, that means they still have emotions and care about one another.
It’s a lot harder to talk to people who are not talking with one another who are ignoring one another, won’t even engage in a conversation. They just ignore that conversation.
Why did I start with this?
Is because a lot of times, we have trouble in these kinda conversations because we have a hard time with conflict.
That’s how I was raised. I was raised to avoid conflicts. I was raised to not even talk about emotions. Ignore emotions.
They’re bad, Don’t talk about that kind of stuff, put on a nice face for everyone else around you.
Lucky me, I stumbled into working on a psych hospital to after college where that’s people working with through intense emotions. People are actively suicidal, they’re actively homicidal, they’re actively seeing hallucinations.
And so I suddenly had to learn how to talk about emotions. How to be comfortable with emotions. How to talk about people who are going to be angry at me for no reason, Because it’s not about me. It’s about something that’s going on inside of them.
So, that’s a lot of what I had to learn how to do. And then, I liked enough that I became a therapist.
And so, in that field, I started working with *** *** offending behaviors. I did family therapy, complex trauma.
And so a lot of it was, how do you have these hard conversations, especially in situations where kids may have been removed from the home.
And so now, kids and our families are very upset, Very angry. They’re very suspicious of engaging with you.
And so I’ve learned the skill set over many years to have these hard conversations with difficult behaviors.
And that bit and that skill set really has, has helped me as I’ve gone into learning and development as I’ve learned.
Gotten into a leadership development, because oddly enough, the same behaviors happen in a professional setting. In a in a workplace. The same behaviors happen. You don’t think they will, but they will. They just tend to show up just slightly different, but it’s still the same causes the syllable same still shows up somehow.
So you have to learn. I had to learn how to do it in a professional way. How do I assert myself? How do I set boundaries? How do I set emotional boundaries in a way that makes sense, so that we can get things done?
And so that’s why I love sharing this topic. That was because it’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time. But also, it’s something that I’ve had to dive deep into in order to be good at what I do.
So, hopefully, as we go through today, you take up some tips, I wanna make sure that you get some real, clear value out of it.
I’ve been to a lot of webinars where I don’t learn anything new. It covers the exact same thing I already knew, so it was kind of a waste of my time for the hour, and so, what I want to cover today are three main things. Essentially, I want to make sure that you understand common difficult behaviors and why they’re difficult.
Because understanding why they’re difficult, will make the biggest, will help you understand, how do you best respond to it?
How do you best intervene when it happens to you, then we’ll talk about how to actually prevent that. You can actually prevent a lot of behaviors if you prepare correctly.
And, so we’ll talk about how do you prevent them, both before the conversation, even at the beginning of the conversation, you could actually had awful lot of these things before they even start.
Then, the last thing is, you can’t hit them all off. Sometimes they’ll happen no matter what.
Despite your best planning, and so that’s what we’re gonna talk about, How do you respond to these behaviors, How do you actually intervene in the moments in a way that’s still helpful for you, helpful for them, getting the things you need to get done?
But also true to yourself?
It’s about how to be, how do you be authentic to your own personality?
And some of the scripts I’ll give you, they may work for me, they may not work for you.
And I want you to think about, how do you change them, so that they are, they sound natural and authentic to your personality?
So let’s jump into it, and talk about common difficult behaviors, and why they’re difficult.
So I’m gonna go through five main ones, and they cover a lot of what you talked about here.
Number one, tangents, People will go on tangents, and they’ll you’ll bring up a topic. You want to give them some feedback, or you want to bring up something that’s important to you, some, some way they’ve hurt you.
And they start talking about somebody else, are they talking about They bring up this other topic that hasn’t even come up in a long time?
So a lot of times, people will go on to engines What else could they do? They might go. They might exaggerate or they might minimize the issue.
So, they might either blown out of proportion, make it big deal, or just even, kind of catastrophes which just make it seem like the end of the world. Or they might minimize it.
You talked to somebody who’s Excuse me.
I’ve talked to somebody who’s coming in late to work multiple times and they say, But I’ve only been delayed. Weren’t late to work? What’s what’s the big deal?
So, now you’re stuck trying to justify how many times they’ve come in if they’ve come in late, all that kind of stuff.
All right. So, exaggerations and minimizing happens a lot.
The third major category of what happens is deflecting people who start talking about other people.
You want to talk about you want to talk to your friend about setting boundaries, because they did something hurtful to you. and they say, Well, what about this? Other friend? They do this all the time.
Or you’re giving feedback to an employee or another manager, and they say, well, what about this other employee?
They also take a long break. They also don’t do this correctly.
Why are you picking on me? So, they’re kinda try to take the attention away from themselves, that deflection.
Then the last, the next two are ones that a lot of you also put up, They fit into these categories. The first one is intense emotions.
When people start getting angry, so, it could be intense emotions in any way, but they’re angry, or they’re crying, or, or they’re really projecting onto you, right? So they start yelling at you or they just start yelling, generalists are crying.
You know, I’ve, I’ve worked with a manager who has tried to give a warning to an employee, and then the employee started crying, and the manager felt so bad that she took it down from a warning to just a coaching session and get them didn’t fall through the warning, even though there was lots of stuff that had happened before, and that should have been a warning.
It’s, it’s easy to fall into these traps.
And also, resistance.
This is when they are pushing back. This is when they say, No, I’m not going to do it. You try to problem solve with them. They’re not going to do it. They’re not going to get involved.
Or they just are pushing back, They’re saying, No, you’re wrong.
I’m not going to listen to what you’re saying, forget it, Stop talking now.
So, what do you do with these things? You know, number 4 or 5 are kinda the same, but they, they have different things going on between them.
So, what I want to do is I want to ask you, what do you think is the main cause of all of these? So come to the question box, and again, I want you to put it in. What do you think is the main cause of all of these? Surprisingly enough? It’s actually one main cause that causes all of these things.
Fear? Ooh, I see a lot of fear avoidance.
I see stress response. Confidence, fear, and changing society.
Not feeling safe. Yes?
You all get it. I don’t need to, I don’t even know if I need to say anymore, because as you all seem to understand, this is great.
That makes my job a lot easier.
I just want to me before I go, and I want to see, somebody is just some more about conflict. Yeah, I think it’s the same.
A lot of this will also apply to conflict, the same thing about conflict and, and kind of either interpersonal conflict or if you’re just media conflict, a lot of very similar overlaps.
But a lot of you have said it correctly.
It’s a fight, flight, or freeze response, And you get it. But it’s that fear. And so now they’re either pushing back, they are fighting back.
They are yelling at you, or their flight they’re trying to runaway. They try to leave the situation.
Or they’ve just stuck. They’re frozen, they don’t know what to do. They’re really literally frozen.
So, it’s the same thing in conflicts.
And there’s a lot of other things going on underneath, also, in terms of the mindset that I’ll talk about, but, a lot of this stuff will go back to this. It’s a biological thing that we cannot control.
We cannot change the way we are, We see it, we experience a threat, Then we experience this fight, flight, or freeze response, know, and so, either, will default to yelling or will default to pushing back, or will default, to, deflecting, to other people, trying to avoid the conversation, avoid the situation altogether, right? Avoid whatever consequences might be happening.
So, that’s a lot of it.
Now, for us, we are also everybody here. You’re here because you want to know how to manage it.
Now, you are also feeling the same way, right? Otherwise, you would you, I don’t know how much you’ve, you feel you would need this, because you feel like you’d be having the control, but you feel it also.
Right. You feel it. You’re worried about it. You’re not sure what to say. You’re not sure how to say it.
You’re worried about what they are going to say in response.
And so there are a lot of other factors for us.
When we’re going in and what we’re trying to facilitate this kind of conversation, then, it’s, it’s going to bring up other things for us.
Because, what makes it difficult, also, is, we’re concerned about the relationships and the outcome.
As an, we wants to maintain the relationship in some way.
We wouldn’t, we want the outcome of cert in the same way as well.
Right, and when I say relationship, if it’s a work relationship, you may not want to be best friends with this person.
You know, And that’s OK.
But in terms of the relationship, you just want at least a good, positive relationship, where you feel you both feel good about each other, and you want an optimal … or either you want some resolution, You want to solve a problem together, or you want to get past this conflict, and get to a new understanding of each other.
You care about both. Which is why it’s difficult, if you didn’t care about either, you would just push forward, Right. If you didn’t care about the relationship, you just cared about the outcome.
You just kinda push through your own, your own agenda in whatever way.
Another reason why this is going to be hard for you to, to get comfortable with it is, just emotions are hard.
Know, a lot of you talked about really important things, like fear insecurity, unresolved issues, that ourselves past history it’s hard to talk about emotions, especially if you were raised in a environment where you talk about emotions. Well, that, it’s going to be hard, is. That’s not easy to talk about it in a positive way, or just even an explicit way. And I’ll talk about how to get comfortable with that in a little bit.
Another thing that makes it hard for us is, just our minds. Our minds actually limit how we approach it, how we view the situation.
And so, just like a well worn path in the snow, as you see on your screen, the way we’ve been raised to view the world. Are people good or people safe? Or are people dangerous? Or people is a world out to get us?
That actually changes the way how we view the world around us. So we view all of our interactions through that way. If you’ve read the book, Difficult Conversations.
I think it’s a subtitle, but it’s a.
it’s by Harvard program and Negotiate Negotiation, really landmark book and the difficult conversations. They talk about, there’s all, there’s always a story that we tell ourselves about the situation, about the conflict, about the relationship, about this thing that’s going on.
We, something happens, and we tell ourselves a story based upon how we understand the world, at how we understand interactions in the world.
And they, and the other person has the exact same thing.
They have had a different upbringing. They’ve had different family. They have different view on the world.
And they’re viewing your interaction through their lens, as well.
And so we have to, so the key is, how do you reframe and rewrite how you view the world?
So think of it more and think outside the box or outside the box, but think more.
Less subjectively and more. Objectively, how do you look at just the facts of what’s happening?
And then also, what happens is, sometimes we just don’t know how to facilitate the conversation.
Some people really are comfortable. Some of you really are comfortable with the conversation, if you’re really comfortable with emotions and intense emotions.
You’re just not sure. What’s the best way to respond to it in a way that still gets you what you? What you need and builds that relationship.
And so, you just need a map. and so we’re going to work on that.
All right, so, that’s common difficult behaviors.
We’re going to walk through each of those things in terms of how to, how to prevent each of those, how to intervene with with each of those. So, I want to talk about how to prevent difficult behaviors.
So again, I want to come to the question box, because I want this to be interactive Before you begin play a new game.
What is the first thing that needs to happen?
What’s the first thing you need to have have before you play a new game? Game? Play and learn the rules and instructions.
That’s right. You all, yep.
This is a really smart group, but I appreciate that.
You need to know the rules of the game. You need to know what the boundaries are. You need to know how the game is played.
You get it.
Now, how often when you started a new conversation, a hard conversation with somebody, do you do that?
Some of you may do it some of the time, it’s hard to do it all of the time.
No. It’s not easy.
So what I would say to you is, a lot of it is, how do you even prepare effectively, know, how do you prepare effectively before you even get into the, the conversation.
So what I mean by prepare is you gotta gather the necessary information.
So if it’s a work situation, then you really want to write down exactly what’s happening.
Especially if you’re trying to talk about some kind of performance issue, or if you’re trying to bring up some kind of thing that’s happening at work, you better have documentation to back up what you’re saying.
Right, Otherwise, it’s just, you and your personal opinion, which is hard to talk through.
Right, But you still can’t, it’s just harder to talk through, especially if you’re trying to get somebody to change behavior.
Secondly, I want you to get into the habit of writing down and planning your scripts.
Now, some of you may do that, and I applaud you, because I only do that like 30% at a time, and I’m telling you to do this.
So, do, as I say not as I do, I guess, but write down and plan your script. You should, the more you planet and write it down, the more you will feel confident what your goal is.
I’ve had, I’ve had managers at work talk, give feedback up to a senior leader, to a VP.
And the difference between when they are just try to speak off the top of their minds.
And the difference to when they actually write it down, when they talk, when we talk through a script, and we practice that script, It’s a total 180. They feel super confident, they can stay on track.
This stuff helps you stay on track when they go on tangents. And when they bring up stuff that’s, you know, they’re trying to bring up other people.
This is the stuff that helps you stay on track.
This is how you prevent it, and you feel confident, because you know you have the answer if they bring up these kinda things.
The other thing that’s not on here, I realize I should have put on here.
Sorry about this, is, you gotta prepare your emotions.
I don’t know what you do to help yourself relax.
I want you to find it.
I want you to think about what that may be so that you can stay calm and practice it before you even get into the conversation.
You should have something.
So, for me, what I do, have a hard conversation, I like to have something in my hand that helps me kind of prevent me from, you know, whole cross my arms too much. Or, too, too much. if I absolutely my hands. I know I can concentrate on that, I can squeeze it is not noticeable, even if, especially if it’s a small thing, I can squeeze it.
And I could put all my tension or anger or anxiety into that.
I also like to take deep breaths in the middle of conversation, Which is, which helps slow down the conversation?
So the goal is slow. If you slow down the conversation, that’s, that’s a good way of slow it down.
So prepare your emotions, have a way to control yourself.
And so, again, the goal, then, is to then to set ground rules. And you could do that by having a couple of statements, which I’m going to share right here for you.
So, a one way you could do it, and you can use it specifically. You can use it word for word, or you can modify it, totally up to you.
It’s thank you for agreeing to meet with me or talk with me. I wanted to talk because there’s something on my mind, I know we can find a resolution that would work for the both of us.
The Principle, Like the specific wording is up to, you, know, again, use your authentic authenticity, use your personality and your relationship, but there’s a reason a few reasons why these things work to build a relationship.
Number one, you start with thank you, because that immediately reduces that anxiety that starts by starting with a thank you, or I appreciate you.
It’s, it’s empowering the other person to feel like they have a choice in the conversation, because the goal, if you’re trying to reduce that fight, flight, or freeze response, the more you can imply or infer or tell them even that they have a choice, nonetheless, they feel cornered the less they feel like they need to be defensive. So, thank you for agreeing to meet with the. You’re saying this our choice. I always like to start with exactly what I want to talk about.
I’ll bring up the topic, because I don’t know about how many of you feel like this, but whenever a boss comes to me and says, Hey, Chris, can we talk?
It doesn’t matter what the conversations about, it doesn’t matter how performing.
I immediately think, I’m gonna get fired that day, even if it’s somebody that’s across the organization, is somebody that’s across the organization that doesn’t even report to me.
Those didn’t even have any supervise ease, if they were to say that’s me, Chris, can we talk real fast?
I immediately think I’m going to be fired.
And so, the more you can do that, I think there’s lots of other people like that. So, how can you reduce that anxiety right away?
And you’ll notice that the last line I’m using a lot of we and us, I’m trying to collaborate so that some of you put in the chat is putting them on the same page that we’re both looking to find the solution, Not necessarily, I need you to be different, but how do we solve this problem. How do we work together to solve this problem?
So, Kathryn? Yeah, You said invite them to partner with you on the solution. Absolutely.
Absolutely. What if they don’t have a choice?
I think that’s a good question. I would say you should still thank them for a great, because everybody has a choice. They all have a choice.
And I am telling you, I’ve worked with people who have been legally mandated by the courts to come to therapy, and they feel like they don’t have a choice.
They do have a choice. They don’t have to come to talk to you. Nobody has to come talk to you unless.
I guess the only way I can think of is if you somehow kidnap them and like and restrain them so they couldn’t get away and then you force them to listen to what you’re saying.
That will be forcing, but everybody always has a choice.
And I think that’s also helpful to reframe it for them, because they may feel, they don’t have a choice.
This gets them to start thinking, OK, I have a choice, and I chose to be here.
You’re trying to help them feel empowered in the situation.
You’re, you’re essentially trying to help them feel equal, because right now, especially if it’s somebody that’s below you, or even, you know, on the same level as you had a work situation, it may feel like you’re talking down to them.
So, the more you can try to help them level up so that they can feel equal to you, the more you’ll, they’ll be able to be engaged in the conversation.
And, yeah, shows gratitude for their participation, absolutely. And so, that’s usually how I like to start like this. And, again, it depends, I’ll, I’ll modify, based upon who I’m talking to.
But it all, every time I have a hard conversation, it starts with these basic principles.
And then I do talk about, set a little bit of ground rules, You know, I hope we can talk openly and honestly today, please feel free to stop me if I say something that makes you uncomfortable, that way, we can pause and talk about it together. How does that sound?
So the big principles here are, as you can, you can put in whatever rules you want. You can even, if it’s a longer conversation, you can invite them to come up with the rules with you.
That’s always more, that’s more powerful.
But if you don’t have time, if it’s a quick conversation, you might want to just say it.
But I want you to focus on, please feel free to stop me.
This again goes, it really is implying that they have power in the conversation.
You’re trying to put yourself as equal to them as much as possible.
So the more you can give them permission and also help them understand that they have equal participation, they can say no. At a time where they can stop at anytime the less they feel defensive, they less they feel cornered and they can’t stop.
And then also, I like to make sure you get agreement all along. How does that sounds?
Even before at the first one, I would like to find a resolution that works for the both of us.
Do you agree?
Get those wind quick wins right away. The more you can get those quick yeses right away, the more agreeable they can be with you because that’s gonna seem they’re gonna be you could pull back on that you can say hey listen.
I know we are stuck now Earlier we found agreement, lots of other things we were able to get agreement here would be able to make solve this problem together.
Do you want to still work on this?
So the more you can get these small yeses, I think, snowball into a bigger yes or a bigger resolution. So don’t downplay.
What if they say no from the beginning? So I’ll talk about that. Carol, I think that’s a good question.
So, let’s talk about that, like, what I talk about how to respond in the moment.
So, I love it. Before I move on to the third thing, which is how to respond in the moment. What you’re all wondering about?
What questions do you have so far, if any?
So, as I say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
So, the more you can do that, the easier it is to, to respond to it later on when we get to the next section.
So let me jump in there.
Oh, OK, some good questions come in and let me just pull up some questions. So are there any other great ways to break the ice for starting these conversations?
You can start with Smalltalk.
I think that’s a great way to start it, especially if you, if you have a relationship with the person, start talking about stuff that you already talk about it, I think that’s great.
I think that’s helpful.
But, yeah, they think that the best way is just to talk and build rapport that way. Talk about something that’s important to them.
You know, but again, if you need to have a serious conversation, A lot of times that’s just going to seem disingenuous if you spend too much time talking about their personal things are, just ask you about things because they’re gonna seem like it’s going to seem like they’re not.
They’re gonna notice when you change the tone in to talk about something serious. So sometimes it’s easier to just jump into it, you know, say dogs, so you don’t break that trust.
These principles apply at work, but they all seem like they applied home. Yeah, absolutely. I, I use the same conversation, or same principles. And I’m talking to my wife about things, and we’ve definitely, you know, during the during coven, and the pandemic is certainly was real hard to talk about lots of different things that were happening.
Because, as you know, there were a lot of things happening. Everybody stressed that, everybody’s upset about something, that’s reasonable.
So, so, yes, you could absolutely use it at home as well.
I saw, I saw somebody I want to address this one, how to deal with liars? So how to deal with liars?
That’s again, that’s why it’s great to write down the evidence that you have that way you can pull back on it if you need to interview people, you can interview people right. It’s OK to talk about that. I think it’s it’s best why you write stuff down.
You know. And I’ll talk about and I didn’t write this in later, but I will talk about how do you bring up the evidence that you have. I’ll talk about that in a minute.
What about the sandwich technique?
I’m not a fan of the sandwich technique.
That’s just me, because, you know, we don’t eat bread, ham breads, sandwich, we eat a ham sandwich.
All right, the important thing is the stuff in the middle, which is really important for people. And I think a lot of people have gotten used to it to the point where they know that something is coming.
They know that you’re just putting them up or talking about something great, they did.
And then just get to the points, right?
Or, what I’ve seen also is, you do that, and then they only focused on the last thing you said, which is the positive thing.
And they don’t, and they don’t care, or think about, or remember the middle part where there’s a behavior You want them to change or do stuff, you know.
So, how do you deal with folks who don’t stop repeating their points?
I actually, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna bring this up also. I won’t bring the specific thing up, but I think one of the things I’ll present to you will help you as well in this situation.
So, I’m glad somebody else agrees with me, The … technique is not great. Yeah?
Yeah, what do you do if you’re in the flight zone.
Yeah, so this is why.
So if you, if you are in the flight zone, if you’re emotionally to diff to upset to handle the conversation, don’t have the conversation.
Don’t have the conversation, because you’re not ready to have the conversation.
So, your choices are either, prepare more, so, get somebody you trust, and just walk through what you would say don’t think about it at a meta way. Like, we’re all talking about difficult conversations in a metal way.
I would say, actually say what you’re going to say.
Say the exact words have, they’ll give the other person clues on how to portray this, your conflict partner, so that you can really understand, so you can get a sense of what kind of objections may come up, or might behaviors might come up for you that are difficult. But I would say, really practice more and more.
You know, The more you practice, the more comfortable you feel like it, just like when you learn a new skill, when you learn a new hobby, the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel about it.
And difficult conversations is a weird thing that people don’t really like to practice.
But, the more you practice, the more you’re going to get comfortable with it, The more you’re gonna get a sense of, how would I phrase this, how would I save this?
Um, yeah, and I would say just practice.
So, I see some great questions. I’m actually going to bring some of them back up later, when we talk about how to engage in the conversation. How do I respond in the moment. But I know that this is the, this is the big part of, how do you actually respond in the moment to these hard behaviors, you know. And so, I’m going to talk about this later, also, but I do want to acknowledge that. I do have a course on this. And so everybody here, wowed by being here. You get the coupon code. You get 10% off. But, I’ll talk more about this later. But I do want to acknowledge, I do have a course where I dive deeper into this and I’ll talk through about what’s included in the course.
So, how do I, how do you respond to difficult behaviors?
Now, I want you to think about this first, what’s the difference between reacting and responding?
What’s the difference between reacting and responding?
Over time, that’s a good one.
Time. Yeah. Reacting is emotional, thought behind the actions, yeah.
So, you all get it.
And so it’s, it’s really about the difference between how you react, when somebody cuts you off in traffic, and how you feel, versus higher, what you’re actually gonna say. In this situation, it’s responding is taking. A lot of you said, it’s taking the time to think about what you’re gonna do.
Being intentional, being thoughtful, I love the way giorgia set as being thoughtful about it.
That’s the difference.
And so as we go through how to respond to each of those five big things, you’ll notice the themes are, number one, you have to manage your own fight, flight, or freeze response, and the other person’s fight, flight, or freeze response and get them back to center.
That’s what makes it so hard, is because you have to match yours and the other person’s at the same time.
And get them back to center, Then you have to take what’s under the surface and put it above the surface.
So you’re, it’s going to be interesting as you see it, you know, there’s a common theme of, there’s this underlying current of what’s happening.
And the best way to address it is actually just to talk about it straight on as you’re talking about it. So, let’s go through each of these 1 by 1. I’m gonna give you a sample script for what, what it looks like, OK.
And, again, you don’t have to use it word for word. It’s really just a guideline.
No, so I appreciate you bringing up this other issue. I wanna make sure I completely understand you.
How does this help reach our goal?
So, again, you could see, if you properly talked about what the goal of the conversation was at the beginning, you can pull it back. Now, you could say, you know, I, I get that earlier.
You agreed, we’re going to talk about this this specific outcome, You know, help me understand where we’re at.
So, your goal here is to understand why they brought it up.
Because if they brought up and there’s a reason. Maybe sometimes there is a reason.
Maybe it does, it does impact what’s happening in the conversation.
And so you should, you should listen to them, right. And if it doesn’t, you could say, listen, I’d love to talk about that a second at a separate time.
Can we refocus on this?
The more you’re able to bring that up at the beginning, the more you can easily bring it back to this at the when they go on a tangent.
You know, same thing with when they exaggerate or minimize.
Interestingly enough, you can now go back to the data that you brought in.
So, this is just the first example that popped in my head. So, somebody who’s refusing to admit that they’re doing a behavior, right?
Like, coming in late, you can say, Listen, I appreciate your sharing. I have some information here, I’d love to share with you. Is that OK?
So, what I would I advise is always ask permission to share something.
You’re asking permission because you’re engaging them in the conversation and they feel like they have control.
Remember they, the more they feel like they have control, the more they’re going to be able to engage without becoming emotionally resistant to what’s happening in the conversation.
So it’s important to think about how do you bring it up, so ask permission.
I would love to bring up some of this information. I I have cached, share this with you real quick.
Then you gotta just talk about it. in a very matter of fact, way. I have I have the camera footage.
It shows that you came in half an hour late, every day for the last two weeks, whatever it may be. But you have that information.
If it’s now I will I will acknowledge if it’s something like a personal issue, like they said, something that’s hurtful to you harmful to you like a microaggression, or maybe something explicitly sexist or racist.
You’re not going to have data on that. No, you’re not going to. You might write that when they said this.
So you won’t necessarily have data.
Maybe if you interviewed other people to see if it’s a pattern of behavior, but you’re gonna get essentially say, I get that at, I wanted to just be really clear. When you said this, this is how I felt.
You know, going back to the Going back to the idea of saying those I statements.
The reason why they work is because you’re not worried about intent.
You’re not worried about why they did that behavior, If it’s something that’s hurtful to you or crossing your boundary, you’re focused only on the impact of that behavior.
You know, you did something, and this, whatever you did, hurt me.
Regardless of your intent, you might have been well intentioned, right?
If I walk by, in a coffee shop, if I walk by you in a coffee shop, and I spend my hot coffee on you, and you say, Hey, you just build coffee on me.
I’m not going to say, Well, listen. I was just walking.
Don’t be so sensitive about it, or, I’m not going to say, Hey, my friends, Carrie likes what I spoke coffee on her.
That seems ridiculous, because it’s still like a physical thing, but when it comes to these, non-verbal, these emotional things, it’s harder for people to grasp when you’re giving them this feedback.
So, it is about how do you, how do you bring up just the impact of that behavior? Not the, not just that, not the intent of that behavior.
So, hopefully that makes sense, I want to move on to deflecting what if they start bringing up other people.
Same thing as what we talk about tangents, right? I understand, you want to bring up person A, because it’s important to you. You’re acknowledging that, it’s importance, And as we talked about at the beginning, this conversation about you and me, and I’d love to focus on that.
And, again, you want to leave that out there.
You say that once statements, and you don’t need to say anything else, You let the silence hang there, so that they have a chance to respond, so they can decide where they can say whether it is part of what it is. If it’s an important part of this conversation, or maybe it’s not. But you need to have that part of the conversations where they talk, where they are allowed to talk about it.
You know, and again, you’re acknowledging that, it’s important to them, because they’re bringing it up.
It doesn’t matter how important it really is in the grand scheme of things, right?
What’s, what’s, what’s the key here is, they brought it up, it came to their minds, so, it’s important to them. So, you want to acknowledge that, and you want to just acknowledge and explore what is their reality, what’s going on for them?
And that brings us up to these other behaviors that we talked about, The bullying, the intense emotions where they’re yelling at you, or they’re just crying, or they’re pushing back against you.
A lot of these things can be handled by your ability to Number one, majd yourself, but also asking good questions.
You know, ask good questions by asking good questions.
I mean, Don’t ask why questions. Why did you say that? Why would that be important?
Those seem interrogative that can make people defensive, as I’m sure most of you There’s a really smart group, so I’m sure most of you are familiar with that idea. It’s really more about what and how questions.
What is going on for you? What is happening here?
You know, How can we move forward past this block?
It’s interesting and important how powerful questions can be if you ask them, well, it doesn’t have to be a very complex question.
It could just be a basic question is how do you want to move forward?
Especially if you’re stuck, they’re yelling at you, and you’re feeling stuck, it’s OK to say that, You could say, hey, I feel stuck.
You know, what’s, what’s going on here.
And, you know, that’s the big principle about is not just about the manage the emotions, it’s about making the stuff that’s underneath the service.
Above the surface, you’ll notice from all these things, it’s not about, kinda try to change their mind, or trying to bring in other facts right away just to solve the problem, or convince them of something.
It’s really about making a comment on what’s what you’re noticing is happening.
They’re starting to get angry.
Ask about that.
It’s like, hey, I noticed you’re getting angry. What’s going on here?
What’s going on for you here.
You know, I have, there’s lots of people that like to use the phrase helped me understand this or that I can’t use that because when I say it, it sounds really condescending because my person is my personality and my tone. I didn’t, I can’t use that.
But some people use it. I know some people use it, and they’re super caring. It’s a very warm way that they’re saying it, and it makes me feel like saying more, It makes me feel like sharing more.
Say you’re going to find the same thing, There are phrases, and questions you can ask that are not going to sell, right, coming out of you, and you gotta practice it, but they just won’t sound right, because of your personality, the relationship you have with the person, the way you say it, it just won’t fit well.
You gotta find ways to ask the questions, and in a way that feel good for you, for you, Personally, That’s authentic to you, that lives by your values, and still move the conversation forward.
So, again, ask good questions, ask them one at a time, What’s going on for you?
Where can we go from here? How do you want to proceed, how do you want to handle this?
If they really are stuck. You know, a lot of people are asked earlier, what if they say no to the conversation at the beginning, They say, No, I’m not gonna talk about this.
Or they say, all sorts of other things. They’re like, No, I’m not going to engage in this.
You could ask them, OK, that’s great. I respect that, So, how do you want to proceed them?
Because you could say, whatever reason, right?
At work, know, some of us might be in situations where we have to give a warning. It doesn’t matter how good they feel about it. It doesn’t matter if they’re going to be engaged in the conversation.
I don’t know anybody that’s gonna be happy that they’re getting a written warning or a final written warning.
I don’t know anyone else. He’d be happy, you’re not going to see that.
If you see anybody like that, you can tell me about that story, because I’d love to use that in this kind of webinar, but there are people that’s, depending on what you’re talking about, there’s going to be intense emotions, so that’s normal.
And it’s OK for them to feel like, they don’t want to talk about, they wanna run away from the conversation, they say no to the conversation.
So take the time to ask questions, explore and learn more about what’s, learn more for yourself, what’s going on beneath the surface emotionally for them. Understand are they feeling scared about something, or they feel anxious about something or angry about something?
No, maybe they’re not angry at you.
You do it.
you may perceive it as their be angry at you, maybe they’re just angry at how unjust or unfair it feels, and that’s fair.
Right. Use silence to your advantage.
When you ask a question, stop there.
Don’t say anything when you are, when they ask you a question or they say something really emotionally charged. No or very accusatory like, Why are you doing this to me?
Don’t you care?
Why are you being such a jerk?
It’s OK to be silent, Don’t say anything.
It feels weird, especially if you’ve never done it before. It feels where it feels like you should be saying something.
A lot of times, that helps to not just just not say anything, so that they can have time to keep thinking about it.
Taking breaks is something that’s vastly underutilized.
If it’s really getting emotional, you’re getting emotional, they’re getting emotional, you’re at a real block, it’s OK. I said, take, let’s take a break.
Let’s take a break. You know, we’re getting at it.
We’re getting really heated here. We’re not making any progress.
How about we take a break, let’s take a break and come back to whenever time, whatever time frame you think is reasonable or you work with them around that.
The Writers’ Guild, they did the same thing with Hollywood studio executives.
Just, they just restarted negotiations because they took a break because they were getting nowhere and that’s OK. Take your break is O is a great way to let the emotions right out so that you can get back to thinking logically as a and responding, as opposed to just reacting in the moment.
Know, summaries and reflections, I wanted to go. I wanted to give you some examples of those, because they’re, they’re often misunderstood. So summaries are like this, let me summarize to make sure I have everything right so far.
You start by sharing this and that, and then you talked about this, you also feel that this, you agree that there must be, or what better way for us to work through this.
Now summaries are as they sound. It’s very literal, you just summarize everything that’s been said.
The one way to take it to the next level is, I want you to think about summaries as a bouquet of flowers.
You’re in a field full of flowers.
You don’t have to pick every flower.
You can use summaries to work for you by only picking the statements and the feelings that you want.
So you see, you start by, summarizing, where you started, summarize some of the points that they made, some of the points you made. And then you end with the thought you want them to have.
Right. You can cherry pick just the specific things that they said that kind of agree with your case, or or or are in agreement for change.
Make the case for change, that they said, say, you said this, and you feel this way, you feel upset about this, and you agree that there must be a better way for us to work through this.
Whatever statement you land on, that’s where there that other person’s get jump off the next part of the conversation.
So that’s why it’s important for you to think about everything that they said cherry pick it, but also land on the last feeling, last thing that they said that they want.
So that’s how you use summaries.
Well, is is it’s not just everything that’s ever happened, but it’s a it’s picking a bouquet of flowers and then for reflections. It’s you’re frustrated, right? Just noticing what emotion are they feeling?
If you want to take it to the next level, you want to dig deep beneath the surface. You don’t think this is fair.
What you’re doing here is you’re labeling what’s emotion, or what belief that they have.
And this is powerful, because if you get it right, then they feel like you truly understand them.
Then they won’t feel as defensive, they’re like, OK, I get it, this person gets it, they know what’s up.
If you get it wrong, don’t stress.
A lot of times, people don’t do it because they feel like they’re gonna get it wrong, But if you get it wrong, that’s still good because they’re going to correct you. They’re going to say, no, that’s not how I feel, I actually feel this way.
And that’s still good news, because now you have information about how they really feel about the situation.
So, I want you to think about this and just get that confidence of, it’s OK to be wrong in this if you’re doing doing that deep labeling, right. It’s, it’s, and you’ll notice there’s a sense it’s not a question. You don’t think this is fair, right? It’s, you don’t think this is fair.
It’s a statement’s declarative, you need to just say a quick, simple statements and let it hang because that’s the, that’s the key to letting them feel it and think about it. So I don’t know why I move forward by itself. Sorry about that.
So that’s, that’s the important thing.
I guarantee you, the more you could do this, the better you get, the more comfortable you feel at this, the deeper your reflections are in the moments, and the faster you’ll get, so what they’re really feeling and what they’re really concerned about, You know, And again, even if you get it wrong, it’s OK.
If you get it wrong, don’t stress, because they’re gonna tell you what the real thing is, and then you can use that. You can say, Oh, I apologize. You’re right. That makes a lot. That makes a lot more sense.
You know, there’s a lot of power to say. I’m sorry, you’re right.
And then doing that from there.
So, before I aye, what’s it called?
I spoil that a little bit, but I’d love to just before I ask questions and just answer questions and talk through some of the things that you all are thinking about, I’d love to know what’s, what’s one skill you learned today, that you want to take away and start implementing immediately. What’s something that you’re like? I want to get start doing this in my conversations?
Hopefully, something.
Do you see there’s responses coming through, Chris?
Oh, there, they are there, OK.
Yep, preparing your script, give them the choice by thanking them to agree with me with you. Staying on topic, reflect better.
Not reacting, responding.
The scripts are helpful, being calm or don’t have the conversation. Don’t have the conversation.
Working on the show gratitude. Responding to tangents, responding to the emotions, being more deliberate. Yeah. Ask questions, not just the whys.
Preventing the behaviors, I think so, oh.
I want to actually go back to something use. People asked, how do you hold people accountable to this, to these behaviors over and over again? I will give this stupid just because I love this question so much.
When you are, when you wanna hold somebody accountable, number one, you can use all those things here.
What actually works the best is if you just prevent it from, even happening in the beginning, by when you first tell somebody to do something. You give them a performance expectation.
You talk about, you apply. and you come up with a plan of what’s gonna happen.
All of that stuff, You, then, ask before you leave the conversation, you ask, How will we address this if we don’t meet this goal?
That’s the number one question you can ask to immediately hold somebody accountable, because at the beginning, if you come up with a plan of how you’re going to solve this problem, or Haganah roll this out.
You ask them all these questions about, you know, OK, what’s the plan? How are we gonna do this? How are we gonna we’re done?
You end with, how will we address this.
If we aren’t, if we don’t meet this goal, and have them come up with right away, what are we going to do?
If they’re not meet that, and then you can talk about what are the accountability measures ahead of time so they know what to expect, right. If it’s not met, does it mean you have to write them up, if they keep coming in late?
Maybe, but at least they know about it, and that makes it easier for you to do that at the beginning.
So, the question, How will we address this?
if we don’t, if you, if we don’t meet this goal, what if they say, I don’t know? Then you’re going to have to give some ideas.
You could say, like, Here’s some ideas, I’ve worked for other people. We could try this or this. What do you think works best for you?
It’s even if I give expectation or even if I give options, I’ll still ask them, well, we could try this or this. What do you think? What sits well with you? What doesn’t? What works?
Again, if you’re giving you, if you’re giving like a warning of some sort in a work situation, if you’re giving a warning, or you’re putting somebody on a performance improvement plan, I don’t know how many people that are going to say, great, thank you, I love working with you. I love that you did this. This is making my day.
No matter what. No matter how you talk about it, no one’s going to feel happy. Not many people will feel happy that this is happening.
So it’s OK to, To, that they leave not feeling happy about what’s happening, where they don’t, they don’t look emotionally great about what’s happening, right, You don’t, you don’t have to feel responsible for everything that they feel, right? It’s hard because we’re all responsible for our own emotions.
So, again, know, again, this is, this is my course where I go a lot more into detail about each of these things, and in the next couple of weeks, I’ve actually been role playing with somebody, some demonstrations.
So I’m actually going to, we’re actually gonna put in some demonstrations of how to handle different types of conversations, like cross organizational projects, or people who cross your emotional boundaries, giving performance feedback, talking about difficult topics with your family, at Thanksgiving dinner.
We recorded one of those, and so I’ll be uploading those in the next couple of weeks, and you get 10% off for being here for Alice needs me, so I hope to see you there.
I also hope you connect with me. I love talking about this stuff. I love, I enjoyed this stuff. So you can e-mail me at my leadership potential at gmail dot com. LinkedIn is where I’m most active.
I don’t I don’t, I have an Instagram. I don’t use it a ton.
You can find me there if you want, But it’s really LinkedIn, where I’m at mostly, and you’ll see these websites, the websites where I’m at, to get more information about me.
But I’d love to connect. I love talking about this stuff, So I know we have a few minutes left, so I’d love to answer any other questions that came up.
Yes, We do have some time here to answer some questions. We had a lot of great questions answered already, but we’ve had a ton more come through from our audience today, as well, As Nancy would like to know, how long is your master worksheet?
So the course itself is about five modules.
That’s a good question. I should have seen how long it is. But there’s five modules. A self paced, It’s, it’s self paced so you could do as you’re at your own leisure.
So there’s five modules.
The first three are about how to prepare, how to reframe your mindsets, how to get rid of your biases from the conversation, how to understand what’s going on for the other person. And then there’s two more modules on that are focused on, like the actual conversation.
Then there’s one module just focused on this stuff, we were talking about just how do we respond to hard behaviors in these kind of conversations?
But if you’ve got funding agreements, what if you don’t find agreements, then what he did?
At Laurene, we’d like to know, is there ever a point where our relationship just isn’t salvageable?
Yeah, so, laureen, I think that’s a great question.
I think that partially depends on your own values, and that reflects, it’s partially a reflection of, what are your own values?
What are the non negotiable’s for you in terms of what behaviors you’re willing to accept and not accept? What are your emotional boundaries?
And I think it’s important to set those boundaries, and then decide from there.
Does that, does that jive with kind of what you’re, what what you’re hoping out of, either a friendship, or a work relationship, or a, or a romantic relationship. All of that stuff is really dependent on. Start with your own values.
Then a need would like to know. how do you prepare if you didn’t initiate the conversation?
Yeah, I would ask.
I would ask the person if, well, I want to ask the person for a break like, Hey, listen, I wasn’t ready for this. Is it OK if we take a break and come back to this? Ask for a break.
You get yourself straight up and just you could say like, I’m not you know I’d love to give this the attention it deserves.
Can we come back in like five minutes or 10 minutes or whatever is reasonable?
You’ll have to talk about that with the person, but it’s OK to just ask for a break right away.
And Christine says, How do you get someone to move on from the past?
Move on from the past I would need more information about that in terms of what you want this person to move on from.
Then we can move on here to this next question from Melody who would like to know, Do you find it better to let someone know that the conversation is coming? or does that just increase anxiety?
I like to let people know, again, this for me, I told you, as I said before, I get really stressed when somebody says, Can we talk, then I immediately think I’m getting fired.
Um, interestingly enough, that did happen. two months ago.
I got laid off because, and my boss did say, Chris, can we talk?
And it was, really, it really brought up a lot for me, so.
But yeah, it’s, it’s one of those things where it’s, it’s better to just say what you’re going to talk about. That’s helpful.
Then let’s close out with one more question I think that we can fit in here from Lydia who would like to know, what if someone says they will not engage in the conversation, and instead says, let’s just move forward as, if it, it never happened.
Or you want to work through it without having a conversation. So two things I would, first, I would reflect, what is your goal from the conversation? What do you want from that conversation?
Do you want them to do something different? Do you want them to say something different?
Whatever it is, that’s the first point is, because maybe they don’t want to talk about it and maybe it doesn’t need to be talked about, Especially if you just want them to do something different and they already agree, I’m just going to do this differently going forward.
If you want an apology, if you want them to do something about that, then that’s different, You’ll want to say that to them.
And then if, depending on what you want, you could ask them about this, like, you could say, Listen, I just want to make, I just want to find some closure and talk about it because that’s how I process it, You know what, what’s happening for you that you’re not interested in talking through it?
I would have to explore with them with why they don’t want to talk about it, without saying the word why.
And with that there, that does bring us up to the end of our session today. Thank you so much, Chris, for your time, and for sharing such great information. I can tell our audience is definitely very appreciative of all all the information you had to share today. They were great questions.
Yeah, thank you. It was great, being here.
And today’s webinar is sponsored by the Leadership Potential and HRDQ. And the Leadership Potential works with small to mid-size HR and Business leaders, to help them get out of the weeds and get more strategic in their roles, offering coaching, training and consultation to help leaders get things done. You can learn more at Make sure you click that link that I sent it in the chat and use code … for 10% off, and we will also follow up via e-mail with the information on that. And with that, thank you all for participating in today’s webinar. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your day forward to seeing you. Next week, happy training, everyone!

Listen to the podcast

In this episode of the HRDQ-U InReview podcast, Sarah is joined by Chris Wong, an executive coach and licensed therapist, who’s here to share insights about mastering difficult conversations in the workplace. We’ll be diving into our recent webinar, “From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations,” which drew an impressive 900 registrants. Chris discusses his background, trends in learning and development shaped by technology, his upcoming projects including a collaborative podcast, and strategies for influential communication. We explore the key takeaways from the webinar, emphasizing emotional management, preparation, strategic conversation setups, and direct responses to challenging behavior.
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