Having difficult conversations

Difficult conversations.
If we want to have meaningful, healthy relationships of any sort, we cannot escape them.

Difficult conversations often require confronting someone about a sensitive topic that often relates to their behaviour or a request that comes at some sort of price.

Before embarking on such a conversation, it is important to have the aim clear in your mind.
What is this really about? What is at the heart of your intentions? What is your true motive?

Is the aim is to clarify an issue or to gain additional information? Are you seeking a specific outcome or wanting to establish or clarify a boundary?

Why are we so afraid of difficult conversations?
Often, it’s because we feel they will rock the “stability” of the relationship or result in conflict.
Also, we do not wish to experience the unpleasant emotions associated with either.
Denial, resistance to change (“this is just me, accept me as I am”), indifference or anger.
Or the dreaded “the problem is with you, not me”.

Often, as hard as the words are to say out loud, they are equally difficult for the other person to hear.
Let alone swallow.

A conversation is two way process.
It involves talking and listening as opposed to you just telling someone what to do or what you expect. This should take place in person, face to face.
Not by email, text, social media or third parties.

Start by asking the other party i.e. friend, partner, relative, if they are willing to have the conversation.
If they say no, you can ask when will be a good time. Avoid making it difficult by imposing.

Know what you want to say and think about it in advance. Be clear. Be respectful.
Attack the issue. Not the person.
Do not anticipate responses.

If they respond in a manner that does not acknowledge what you are saying, then state your stance again. Responses are often unpredictable.
Be prepared to stand your ground.
Keep it simple.
No long unnecessary explanations. No blaming.
Be compassionate.

Say it in the same way you would like to hear it.
Be aware of your body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.
If confronted with signs of aggression, stand back.
Do not meet verbal punches with verbal swings of your own.

You might have to wait for the other person to cool down before returning to your conversation.

If you have a request, it must be clear and specific. For example “I am asking you not to interfere in my job. If you do so again, I will move out of the house in two days.”

Be willing to listen to the other person’s response, whether or not you like it.
If you are prepared to dish out some unpleasant truths, you must be willing to swallow some regarding you that may come to light as a result of the conversation.

Accept responsibility for your part in whatever has gone on before.
Especially if you have tolerated unhealthy behaviours for a long time. It takes two to tango.

Own it, accept it. And then move on.

Don’t put off hard conversations. Say what you have to say, and mean it.