How to Speak up

and be Heard


Having spent the last twenty-six years as a police officer, I have had to hold conversations with people from all walks of life. I have had to interview witnesses and suspects, deliver good news and bad news, and deal with people who really did not want to talk to the police and those who had no-one else to turn to.

I have learned to hold conversations with just about anyone: people whose first language is not English; people with learning difficulties or hearing or sight impairments; angry people and desperate people. In doing so I have found that, no matter who you are speaking to, finding common ground is the best way to get to know them or get them to interact with you. Once you can do this, you will be able to understand people, help them, or make new friends and acquaintances.



Conversations need not fail! Prepare and manage your interactions with others using a simple conversation model.



Bring the confident and best you to any interview using a few simple tools to highlight your own skills and experiences.

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Difficult Conversations

A difficult or challenging conversation can be planned and expected, or it may as equally be unplanned and not expected.

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Conversations are part of everyday life; at work, with colleagues or, customers, during those important interviews or job appraisals, and, just as importantly, socially with family and friends. So, let me ask you some questions:

  • Do you have trouble starting conversations because you don’t know what to say?

  • Do you lack confidence and feel like you have nothing of importance to add?

  • Do you miss out on learning more about people or letting people find out more about you?

  • Are you asking the right questions but not getting the answers you expect?

  • When you have had work appraisals or interviews, have you ever felt that you have not fully given yourself the best chance?

If the answer to some or all these questions is ‘yes’ then the five- step SPEAK system that I have developed can help you to change how you approach conversations. I will examine why conversations can fail, how you can better plan your interactions with others more constructively, and how to give yourself the best chance to have a a really good conversation.

While anyone, at any age or stage of their life, can find conversations challenging, I’ve found in my career as a police officer that it’s frequently younger people who have the most difficulties. Whether you’re starting out on further education or stepping onto a new career path, you may find yourself in new conversation situations that challenge you. If you struggle with saying ‘no’, standing up for yourself with friends or family, or making yourself heard by people in authority, you can find help on this website. Perhaps those challenging conversations – the ones we all have, in which we doubt ourselves and our abilities – are taking place in your head? Don’t worry – help is at hand.

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Interviews are nothing more than a conversation, the only difference is that the interviewer may have a set agenda and questions that they need you to answer and give evidence for.  

  • Do you get nervous or anxious before an interview and struggle to control your emotions?

  • Do you struggle preparing for interviews and recalling the facts and key points?

  • Have you ever felt that you have not given yourself the best opportunity to showcase your skills and talent?

  • Not sure what type of interview to prepare for?

  • Do you over rehearse and then find it difficult to adapt to the interview questions?

Most Interview worries, and concerns can be overcome. Learning to handle your uncertainties about interviews, building your knowledge for future Interview possibilities will be a positive and beneficial approach to combing the current job market for that one role that you have always wanted.

Using the skills learnt with the SPEAK model together with SMILE will help you prepare for your future interviews so that you can bring confidence and knowledge to conversation with the interviewer.

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Difficult Conversations

These types of conversations usually involve managing emotions and information in a sensitive and controlled way.

  • Do you struggle to address poor performance or conduct with others?

  • Do you avoid having conversations that deal with personal problems?

  • Do you feel uncomfortable if you have to comfort or reassure someone?

  • Will you ‘cross the street’ to avoid tackling personality clashes with others?

You can make these conversations less difficult by facing the issue at the first sign that something is wrong.  Keeping in touch regularly will also help you to be able to identify when things are not quite right and approach the matter.  Ask how people are feeling about particular issues or changes that are happening around them.

The longer it is left the bigger and more complicated it can become to have the conversation; it is still a conversation and like all conversations there will be a structure, sharing of information and an exchange of thoughts.Using SPEAK and COURAGE will help you to be confident in holding difficult conversations.