Not So Difficult Conversations

Not So Difficult Conversations

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MedStar Health has experts devoted to applying the art and science of influence and rapport in health care. Influence work launched formally on May 1, 2015, as part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation at MedStar Health.

One of our main goals is to help MedStar Health associates develop skills and expertise in influence to encourage healthy decisions, promote behavior change in a positive direction, help establish rapport and trust with patients and colleagues, and optimize constructive communications.

There is a high demand for our influence experts to provide consultations, speak at conferences, and organize workshops for numerous departments. Managing difficult conversations is one of the most requested topics across MedStar Health and by other healthcare organizations. High-stakes conversations occur daily due to the complexity of the healthcare industry; however, little to no formal education or instruction is provided in school or otherwise to best handle these crucial discussions.


When preparing for high-stakes conversations, meetings, and presentations, we often spend a great deal of thought on what we will say. We are usually diligent in preparing the content; however, what makes difficult conversations difficult is not just the content, but also the context—it's not simply the "what" that makes the conversations complex, but the "how," the "when," and the "where."

Skills that are needed to handle high-stakes conversations are directly connected to the study, skill, and application of influence. A primary function in health care, influence is also a learnable skill that involves applying proven principles and techniques to generate positive behavior, create stronger relationships, improve communication, and produce feelings of satisfaction and engagement. Influence transcends everything we do, from clinical care, to performance transformation, to professional leadership, to research and education.

Based on trending consultations and speaking requests, the influence team is launching a series of professional development courses to meet the increasing demand for expertise and the application of influence skills in health care. The courses offer a variety of modalities via online or in-person sessions. In particular, the demand for tools and skill sets to better handle crucial discussions and difficult conversations have witnessed a spike in requests and continue to grow.

Although we practice influence every day whether at work or in our personal lives, influence skills can be learned and developed. Our team’s ultimate target is for healthcare professionals to become experts in the art and science of influence in order to have the highest and best-intentioned impact on their patients’ lives and the industry.


In less than a year, our Not So Difficult Conversations workshops, speaking engagements, and materials have reached more than 3,000 healthcare professionals including physicians, nurses, and executives such as C-suite level leaders, legal teams, and managers. The requests for our coaching in this domain have spread only by word-of-mouth, with no marketing efforts.

In response to the growing demand, the influence team is developing professional product suites including train-the-trainer programs for Not So Difficult Conversations. The first official professional development course by the influence team was a Body Language Product Suite, which was based on an in-person lecture series repurposed for an online platform offering all the benefits of the in-person lecture but with additional resources and information readily available to all students. The launch of a Not So Difficult Conversations product suite is expected to give thousands of professionals the opportunity to enhance their influence skills specific to the crucial discussions that they often encounter in health care.

Additionally, through this work, we are pioneering innovative ways for developing courses and content delivery methods inside healthcare systems. The influence team is carefully studying the strategies and techniques of world-renowned professional development coaches and marketers, and thus serves as a valuable consultant and resource for healthcare educators.

July 2021 Update

Since this case study was first shared in October 2020, the Not So Difficult Conversations course has continued to help a wide range of professionals. The course was originally offered via online and in-person sessions, so the different course modalities have been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic response.



Text last updated: 11/5/21
Page first published: 10/19/20


The influence team’s “Not So Difficult Conversations” professional development course provides tools and enhances skill sets to enable participants to better handle crucial discussions and difficult conversations.


MedStar Health’s Influence Team