January 10

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How to have Difficult Conversations

Sooner or later a difficult conversation needs to happen. While this is normal, how you handle those conversations will determine whether you come away from this particular discussion with a stronger appreciation for each other’s point of view. This is why it’s so important to handle difficult conversations well.

How do you ensure you engage in the best conversation possible in these circumstances?

Start by not putting off the talk longer than necessary. Take time to count to ten or to take a few deep breaths before beginning. After all, starting with too much emotion will be more damaging than helpful. Once you’re cooled down though, it’s time to talk. Why is it better sooner rather than later? By putting things off, you tend to build up resentment and inflate the conflict. It’s important to address situations before they get out of hand. A small problem today is much easier to solve than a giant one several weeks from now.

Drop the good news–bad news approach. No one likes waiting for the other shoe to drop, so instead of giving the compliment with a ‘but’ lurking to negate everything you’ve just said, just come out and say the bad news first. If you’re determined to add in the compliment, do so after the bad stuff is out of the way, so you leave the person on a more positive note.

Plan your conversation. Rather than blindside your discussion with an uncomfortable conversation, let them know you have something you want to talk about. Make it clear you’re wanting to discuss something that affects your feelings, rather than starting out in an attack.

What are your goals? In any heavy conversation, you need to agree at some point on common goals. Working toward the same thing will help you find your way through the conversation to that eventual place.

Keep a positive spirit. Aim for optimism. Even if the conversation isn’t going how you would like it to, finding something to hope for will soften the outcome no matter what.

Difficult conversations are just that: Difficult. But having a plan in place will help you to get through them. Use these steps to build the framework of your conversation, and even if the outcome is bad, getting there won’t be as difficult as you think.

What difficult conversation do you need to undertake?


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