FIRR Method: Removing emotion in difficult conversations

Hard conversations are just that…hard.  A technique I use quite often when I’m dealing with a difficult person or sensitive topic is what they call the FIRR method. A friend told me about this method and I use it a lot. FIRR allows you to use a blend of professionalism and emotional intelligence to directly address something that might normally elicit a negative or emotional response in both you and who you’re addressing.

“FIRR” stands for the four steps: Fact, Impact, Reason, Request. This strategic approach helps you stay on track to discuss an issue calmly and fairly:

  • Fact- What’s indisputable about the problem.  These are behaviors you've directly seen or heard that you intend to address.  Opinions cause people to be defensive, so stick to the facts.
  • Impact- Because of the facts you established above, what’s being impacted? What are the results of their behavior? Why do you care?  Tell them why you’re bringing it up with them.
  • Reason- This is your statement of belief that the person doesn’t have bad intentions for their action(s) and are capable of correcting it. It allows you to treat the person with dignity and respect, honoring that you believe they had good intentions.
  • Request- This is the specific, measurable action you want them to take. Be specific, let them know what they need to do in the future to resolve the issue.

Example:  You arrived 20 minutes late to work today (F).  Because you were late, a client meeting was delayed (I).  I know you didn’t intend for the client to have to wait (R).  Moving forward, I expect you to arrive 5 minutes early so that you are prepared for client calls (R).

Unresolved conflict in life can build up, creating a toxic work or relationship environment - which makes you vulnerable to passive-aggressive or even purely aggressive future behavior.  The FIRR method may take some practice and even feel awkward at first, but it sticks to the facts without emotion and honors both parties.  It is great for coaching, guiding, setting expectations, monitoring progress, or providing constructive feedback.  Give it a try!