A long time ago, in a school far, far away…I had a college class that focused on social interaction and relationships.  One of the projects / case studies was to analyze challenging interpersonal conversations and develop a method to approach these conversations in a constructive, non-demotivating way, while still achieving whatever goal you’re after.  The end result for us (4-5 person team) was what we called “Triple A”, or “AAA”.  I’m taking the time to actually post this on my website so as not to lose track of it, as I’ve found it tremendously useful in my professional career, both as an individual contributor, consultant, and personnel manager.  Should any of my college peeps come across this…I’m not trying to take credit, just trying to share the love :-)


To perpetuate the successful management of any engagement (personnel, projects, meetings, etc.), the AAA guidelines can provide great value.

AAA assumes the mindset of the party to be positive, team-centric, with a desire to continue to grow together.  Even in difficult situations where pointed conversations must be had regarding performance, effort, dedication, etc., the conversation can often be successfully managed with positive focus on the front end, followed by clarity, honesty, and more pointed feedback around concerns.  Conversely, you can use the AAA principles to reflect on past situations in order to illustrate successes, failures, and places to improve upon next time.

If you are already focused on exiting the relationship, the techniques will prove far more challenging, so it’s best to get started positively from the first engagement.  One thing is certain; you are ultimately in control of and responsible for your destiny in any engagement.

START the conversation with:

  • Accolades – Thank parties for time, effort to this point, flexibility, accomplishments
  • Assistance – How can we work together, provide you with x to help you with y, help you/them better perform
  • Answers – To any open questions parties have, preparedness for meeting or situation


  • Assessment – Honest feedback, past-present-future review, concerns
  • Analysis – More in-depth conversation around situation, process, mindset
  • Action – Agreement on next steps, what forward progress looks like to all parties

AVOID at all costs:

  • Anger – Self explanatory, abrasiveness
  • Attack – Posturing, defensiveness, unconstructive opposition, scrutiny, degradation
  • Abandonment – Leaving parties with a feeling of no assistance, support, care