How to have a difficult conversation - A guide for those who shy away from confrontation

Updated: May 26, 2020

Whether it’s a Partner? Boss? Colleague? Or even your closest friend - having a conversation that makes you feel uneasy or has your heart beating is never a comfortable thing. Unfortunately difficult conversations can form an integral part of open communication and keeping your emotional boundaries set. But why do most people have a complete fear of having an open and honest chat? Well, they are hard! They create the potential for conflict and conflict can be tough to confront. In one interesting HR poll more than 80% of workers dread one "scary" conversation. A quarter of respondents have procrastinated their dreaded conversation for six months, while 1 in 10 respondents have done so for an entire year! So how do we go about this difficult conversation? We’ve put together our top tips to help you on your way.

How to have an effective ‘difficult’ conversation Plan Ahead Before you begin to plan and arrange your thoughts, analyse and scrutinise them. Are you coming from a place of calm and reason? Write down what you hope to express. What are you feeling? What’s the best way to articulate your truth? Jot down what you believe will the best outcome of this conversation, walk into a chat with proactive solutions and not just a rant of your anger. By mapping out your thoughts, the purpose will become clear and you will be focused. Be Calm and Composed If you walk in ready to fight, expect a fight! Take time to ground yourself and yes, why not try a few breathing exercises to help focus. Use a calm voice, be clear and don’t let the anger brew within you. Remember that saying ‘count to ten before you speak’ - it’s a great way to help you steady your thoughts. Be Reasonable and Open to Feelings I always say - try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes as much as possible. Try to understand a little about why the person is feelings and do what they are doing. There are two sides to every story and there is often a reason why actions (or sometimes inaction) have occurred. Often difficult conversations happen due to a build up of past issues and a lack of clear and concise communication. Remember, we are all unique and are the culmination of different upbringings, values and beliefs. Sometimes these differences can cause clashes, however it’s the way you open your mind to understanding these differences that will lay the right path forward. Avoid Preconceived Expectations Most times you may have some ideal outcomes set in your mind, but these might not always be the way forward. Ideals are great, but be flexible on what result might suit. Instead of expecting the other person to apologise or meet your desired outcomes, let the discussion unfold naturally. Let it be whatever it is in that moment. Through the course of your conversation, new information might come to light! Walk Away If You Need To There will be times when the conversation does take a turn for the worst, and that’s ok! It’s how you react to this that can help sort the situation. Take some time out by saying “I feel that I might not be coming across in the way I had hoped for, I’d love to take a break and come back to this conversation when I feel like my head is a little clearer.” Taking the time out can help you refocus and get your energy back into a better place, just make sure its not to avoid the discussion altogether. --- Ultimately, we will all face several difficult conversations throughout our lifetime, it is inevitable. They can unnerve us and give us sweaty palms, but it’s how we approach them and plan that can help the whole situation move on. At Outred Psychology we know difficult conversations, it’s what we work with each day. If you feel like there’s a difficult conversation that you are not sure how to approach, get in touch for some practical strategies.

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