The Coaching Academy BlogThe Coaching Academy Blog

05 Jan, 2010

We Need To Talk

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coaching Articles

David FinneyEverything starts with a conversation and so the quality of that conversation determines everything. Small Talk is fairly instinctive, but Big Talk requires something different: the right mindset and a strategy. Let’s put aside small talk and focus on the big conversations that can change life direction.

There are many barriers to effective communication; sometimes it’s hard to pass the ‘ACID’ test which places 4 obstacles in between the communicator and a great conversation:

Apathy – easier to defer/avoid
Convenience – choosing email or text
Interference – pride, fear, anger, hurt, embarrassment, depression, intimidation, stress
Distraction – workload, pressure, online communities, television, radio, newspapers etc

ACID burns through the fabric of essential communication and prevents us from having vital conversations. When there is conflict or uncertainty, leadership in communication is simply making the first move, knowing that future events can be designed or influenced just by having the right conversation. Initiating a great conversation is sometimes a 3-stage process:

1. Recognising the potential positive impact of having the conversation v the risks of not having it
2. Passing the ACID test
3. Defining the essence of the issue and preparing for the conversation

Preparation can be a complex process depending on the nature of the issue; developing an ‘inner coach’ is useful. What is my intention here? How do I want to come across? What if he says this? What is she does that? What key questions might they have? What might their motives be? Communicating with clarity and respect is a good starting point and ensuring that nothing important is left unsaid.

There are probably 6 broad reasons why we start a big conversation:

1. To produce ideas that will lead to solutions
2. To make the peace, find harmony
3. To release emotions / give vent
4. To seek help / collaboration
5. To impart information
6. To gain information

Once the conversation has started we open ourselves up to unlimited possibility and are also vulnerable to two risk areas: a) misunderstanding; one of the main causes of conflict during a conversation and b) rash response; arguably the single most damaging factor in personal and professional relationships.

Let’s first take a look at misunderstanding and the ambiguity of some phrases:

The Fiat Panda used to be very popular with English car buyers
Please get back to me quickly
Would appreciate an immediate response
I want us to improve our sales approach
This business needs to be successful
If it’s ok with you this has to be sent to the client in 5 minutes
It is what it is
Reserved staff only

Are the cars English or is it the buyers?
What is ‘quickly’?
What is ‘immediate’?
‘Us’ or you?
What is ‘successful’?
What if it is not ok with you?
Does that mean we should do nothing?
Where do the extroverted staff park?

The combination and order of musical notes determines the strength of a melody. The combination and order of words determines the strength of the message in terms of its clarity and impact. We each operate like a Human Dictionary. A word enters our consciousness and we begin the process of defining it, interpreting its meaning before proceeding to provide an internal and/or external response. This in itself is an intriguing process although do we always leave ourselves enough time to do it properly?

As for rash response, over-reaction is a popular pastime amongst colleagues and couples. Viktor Frankl’s legacy to humankind was to teach us to recognise and manage the gap between stimulus and response – a philosophy so powerful that Steven Covey turned it into his first habit in the best selling ‘7 Habits of Highly Successful People’. Frankl set us a great challenge as the gap often disappears when we feel criticised or offended.

Great conversations provide fuel for communities, create deep connections and lead to the achievement of goals. In times of challenge, conflict or change everything can be achieved through the energy of conversation.

Further Information

David Finney is the managing director of The Energy of Conversation Ltd, a company dedicated to learning & improvement and providers of corporate & personal coaching. Visit or contact

10 Responses to "We Need To Talk"

1 | Jacqueline Pigdon

January 6th, 2010 at 9:19 am


I agree you can have one single conversation that is literally life changing! One that impacts you so deeply, standing as a defining moment in your life and is the catalyst for change that you never forget.

Live Your Best Life!


2 | Susan Grandfield

January 6th, 2010 at 11:15 am


The importance of conversation almost always comes up when I am working with clients either as a trainer or as a coach. Many of us just don’t have enough of them or give them enough importance. I love the concept of “the energy of conversation”, it creates a real dynamism to the act of conversation and symbolises its strenght. In the tough times we have all been through recently, conversation is something we shouldn’t forget it free and extremely powerfu. Thanks for this article David.

3 | Edna Crosby

January 6th, 2010 at 11:17 am


An excellent article, thank you for this. I find a common theme in my coaching work is around clients wanting to prepare themselves for a big or ‘courageous’ conversation. This is often to do with trying to improve a difficult relationship or sort out misunderstandings. These sorts of issues may drain peoples’ energy and take up a great deal of time andcontribe to unhelpful thinking patterns. I like the ACID model and will certainly try this out for myself and introduce it to clients.

Further Information

I worked in the NHS for many years in organisation and personal development. I now work for myself, most of my clients are senior NHS managers.

4 | Edna Crosby

January 6th, 2010 at 11:19 am


sorry, ‘contribe’ should read ‘contribute’!!

5 | Patrick

January 6th, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Not convinced conversation is a starting point. What if we could text / email a partner instead of converse? Could this be more effective?

6 | Gloria Ezeonyeasi

January 8th, 2010 at 2:22 pm


This is a useful article; it has reinforced my resolve to always have a healthy and meaningful conversation. And also to manage and make good use of the time between stimulus and response. It is a very crucial time and, how you use the time will determine the acidity level of the conversation or help annihilate acidity. We need clarity and respect in today’s conversations more than anything else. As a Tranquility Coach I love the idea of the energy of conversation because tranquility begins in our minds, with the conversations we have in our minds.
Thank you David.

7 | Andrew Wernick

January 9th, 2010 at 11:03 am


What David has done is to set out in a clear really useful analytical way what we do or probably dont do when faced with those big burning issues, i.e. either:
- why they are so easily either put off and left to fester or
- unintentionally escalate into a bad situation, the consequences of which are not easy to undo.
This article strongly resonated with me; I had to have a difficult converation recently and it is useful to review the processes and pitfalls involved.

8 | Gill Keylock

January 17th, 2010 at 7:06 pm


With conversation you can see facial expression, body language and hear the tone of the voice. All of these contribute to the conversation, I feel that emails and texts do not offer these valuable tools. Also the other party can question your content and so avoid confusion.
Thank you David, I am just starting on my Academy Coaching and I value your article.
Gill Keylock

9 | Louise Hedges

January 27th, 2010 at 2:05 pm


Great article David; may I use ACID with some of my clients (with your name of course)?

Only one thing to suggest about big conversations; the requirement to allow the other party to prepare for the conversation too. Not as easy as it sounds, done inelegantly it can be seen as a warning or threat, ruining weekends and causing sleepless nights.

The solution is usually about communicating your intention (where you are coming from) in wanting the conversation…perhaps a whole other article?

Love the name of the business too!

Best regards


10 | David Finney

January 30th, 2010 at 12:03 pm


I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to post these encouraging comments on the article, it’s much appreciated. I am so glad you found it interesting and useful. Louise/Edna/Others, you are very welcome to use the ACID model and thank you, a credit is appreciated. Best of luck to you all in your adventures. Please feel free to get in touch any time.

Very best wishes, David

Comment Form

Blog Calendar

February 2019
« Oct    

  • Emma-Louise Elsey: CONGRATULATIONS to The Coaching Academy! I'm a bit late to the party here, but that's wonderful news. Well done for all your hard work and dedication
  • donna: That's me in that pic!!!!
  • Harry Singha: Great shout Thanks

About The Coaching Academy

The Coaching Academy is at the forefront of coach training worldwide. As the largest UK school for coaches, The Coaching Academy has developed a reputation for quality training and has trained over 30,000 people in coaching skills over the last ten years.

The team of trainers you will work with are hand-picked from the cream of the UK’s finest coaches and trainers... [read more...]

  FREE Coaching Report


  Please tick if you have attended or applied for our FREE Coaching Course:
FREE Coaching Report
Log in