Have you had any difficult conversations lately? We need to have challenging conversations once in a while. These anxiety-provoking conversations can be immensely stressful and energy draining. Do you tend to put difficult conversations off consistently, making it harder and harder to face the opposite person? Have you experienced that?
Well, often these can also be the most important, life-defining conversations which we cannot afford to ignore. And so, here are quick five tips to help make difficult conversations easier.
Tip #1. Don’t wait till you reach a breaking point
If you wait to have the conversation, after you reach a breaking point, you are bound to snap. Annoyance, anger, resentment, hurt, can all build up over time if a situation isn’t addressed at the right time. Don’t wait for things to get really bad, to have important conversations. Has that ever happened to you, where you have postponed difficult conversations to a breaking point? Because then you are more likely to blame, shame, and criticize, and less likely to be able to engage in a productive dialogue with the other person.
Tip #2. Avoid blame, judgments, and criticism. No exceptions!
When emotions are running high, and when hidden feelings become overwhelming, we’re more likely to blame, judge, and criticize the other person, which can be toxic to our relationship. No matter how challenging the conversation is, refuse to blame, judge, or criticize. Although it may be difficult to talk about, get to the root of the actual problem, the conversation will be far more productive. Judgments and criticism only lead to more negativity in the relationship.
Tip #3. Don’t assume you know what the other person is thinking
Often, we tend to make stories in our head about what is the other person is thinking. We assume hidden meanings, imagine hidden agendas, which may not even exist! Check whether what you are thinking is right. Clear out your nagging doubts. Clarify what you have understood. This will go a long way in helping the conversation.
Tip #4. Just listen
Don’t spend all the time, either talking or thinking about what you want to say next. Make a genuine attempt to really listen to what the other person is saying. Try to understand their point of view. Ask them questions like: “Tell me more about that” or “How does that make you feel?” Don’t read too much into their words and don't interrupt. If you listen, you may actually discover something that you didn’t know, or see the situation from a different angle.
Tip #5. Choose to forgive
Not all conversations like this are going to have a happy ending. There will be some people, situations or behaviours that you just can’t talk through – and that’s okay. Learn to forgive others for being difficult. Learn to forgive yourself for reacting. Agreeing to disagree when necessary. Remember you can’t win all battles, nor can you master all conversations. Sometimes it’s wise to just let go. The next time you have a difficult conversation, remember these tips and also be proud of yourself for starting the conversation and facing your fears. It takes real courage.