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Crucial Conversations

Through a dynamic mix of theory, demonstration, and practice, this two-session workshop provides a solid foundation for more principled, persuasive, and successful conversations in a variety of contexts.

Learning Objectives

By participating fully, you will:

  • Analyze whether a potential difficult conversation is worth having.
  • Frame a purpose of mutual benefit and promote a safe environment.
  • Develop an attitude of curiosity and learning.
  • Present difficult messages with care and diplomacy.
  • Identify tools to handle negative reactions and tough moments in challenging conversations.

Program Description

In this highly interactive workshop, we will examine how conversations become difficult when the stakes are high, emotions escalate and we fear damage to relationships or other negative consequences. Our approach will include attention to the ways conversations can become even more challenging when there are differences of race, gender, power or authority. Participants are encouraged to bring specific examples of real situations they are facing (or have faced in the past) for analysis in discussions and practice in break out room exercises.

We will explore how to decide whether or not to engage in a difficult conversation, how to look for a beneficial purpose to frame a conversation more helpfully, as well as how to stop falling into the trap of avoiding difficult conversations that really matter. Finally, we will discuss and practice mental preparation for and ways to engage in difficult conversations that make them more likely to be productive as well as how to try to rescue conversations that are going off track.

Facilitated by Jessica Notini, consultant and negotiation coach.


Open to enrolled graduate students at any stage in any discipline or degree program. Priority given to doctoral students. Open to postdoctoral scholars if space is available.

Space is limited. Due to the workshop's interactive format, full participation in both sessions is required.

If you are accepted to this workshop, you must confirm your place by submitting a Student Participation Fee Agreement, which authorizes VPGE to charge $50 to your Stanford bill – only if you do not fully participate in the event. You will receive a link to the Agreement and instructions if you are offered a place.


Time Commitment: 
Grad Grow Competency: 

Registration Process

Crucial Conversations took place in Winter 2021.

Please check back in Fall 2021 for future workshop dates.