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How to Deal With Difficult Conversations

Have you ever known that you had to deal with a difficult conversation, and you were just dreading it?  But if it went on too long,  the apprehension could grow even bigger in your mind. This can happen in a work setting, with your partner, talking with kids. friends or relatives. Nobody really wants to pick a fight, but sometimes:


  • Boundaries have to be established


  • There’s a painful or delicate subject that needs to be spoken about


  • We may have to tell someone some bad news they were not expecting


  • You’re worried that it could blow things up


Sometimes, the stories we play out in our minds get bigger as we wait - “What if he or she gets triggered, and either explodes, withdraws or falls apart?” In work setting or with friends, you may worry, “Am I making an enemy if I speak my mind?


The question is not if you have to speak to them - you probably do. The question is HOW?  Here are 5 ways to make a hard situation easier... and  get better results too:


Manage your energy - if you are calm and respectful, they are most likely to pick up on your tone. If you are blaming or sarcastic, they will get defensive and possibly shut down, or explode. If you’re bringing on the drama, things will escalate quickly, and not in good way.


Give them a heads up and pre-design the tone:  Consider saying, "I’d really like to talk about… is this a good time?" Set up some ground rules, to have a civil conversation, such as: when one of you or both gets too upset, take a cool-down walk or plan to regroup when you’ve re-centered.


Practice active listening: Everyone wants to be heard, so instead of interrupting or tune out while planning your rebuttal, actually listen to what the other person is saying. You might even say, “I want to make sure I got this right - you are saying…” or ask them to repeat it so you can fully understand.


Don’t fight to be right: Instead adopt an attitude of let’s put our heads together to solve the problem or deal with this tough situation. Search for things you can agree on, and then move into the challenging areas.


Share the intention of finding a solution to one problem: Focus on the issue at hand, (do not dredge up stuff from 2 years ago) and give concrete examples. Avoid saying “You always, or you never, or nothing I ever do…" You get the idea. In other words, try to be specific, and together find a specific solution.


When you hold the space that this is not just about a disagreement, it’s about the tone and quality of a long-term relationship. It may be easier to come from the heart and realize we are always learning... from one another and from life. Ask yourself, how would my best self handle this, and use that as your guide.


Q:  What works best for you when dealing with a difficult conversation?


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