How to have a difficult conversation
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keminekvapil
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One of the many skills I have learnt and continue to learn, through my ongoing training as a coach and through experience as a human, is how to have those difficult conversations.

We all have to have them.

We can try to avoid them, and many people do until what we have to say begins to fester into frustration and resentment.

If we are not willing to have these conversations, we will remain stuck, upset, undervalued, underpaid and any other ‘under’ you can think of.

Many of my clients have had to have difficult conversations, as have I, and I wanted to share with you some of the tools that can make difficult conversations a little less difficult and a little less overwhelming.

Respect yourself and the other

A very solid foundation to a difficult conversation is checking that the person you want to communicate with is ready to have the conversation. How many times have you started a tough conversation and for whatever reason the other person had to cut you short because of children, running between meetings etc. It only takes “I would like to have a conversation with you. Is now a good time? If not when will be?” No one likes to be ambushed. This also means that you will not feel rushed or ignored, and you deserve to be heard.

Be clear what it is that you want to communicate

It is worth taking the time to think about what it is that you want to communicate and how to communicate it. I do not mean ruminating for days, weeks or years, I mean get clear.

What outcome are you after?

Many of us go into difficult conversations with such fear and nervousness that we end up sending emotions and words flying out all over the place. It is important to know what outcome you desire, not so that you can have your outcome regardless of the other person’s feelings or input, but so that you can go into the conversation knowing your intention. This will give you a clearer head and you will communicate better, which means you will be heard better.

Be human

I am not sure where we got the idea that we must not mess up in any of our interactions with other humans. I have found one of the most powerful ways to start a difficult conversation is to let the person know your humanness before you even start. “I want you to know that I am very nervous about this conversation, and that means I may say something stupid or offensive or patronizing or manipulating, or all of the above. This is not my intention, as I respect this relationship/situation too much, so please let me know if that is how it feels and I will try again.”

Leave blame in the playground

The one gift I see in blaming others is that we do not have to take responsibility ourselves. Phew! The cost of blaming, though, is that the other person will be unable to hear what you are saying. Because you are blaming them, they have either closed down and withdrawn or they are working out how to defend themselves against the perceived attack. Instead of blame, there is another option: stating the facts. “This happened. How did it make you feel? This is how it made me feel? What do you think we could do to resolve this?”

You can do hard

Sometimes the fear of ‘the conversation’ is the one thing that is stopping us from having what we need or want or being who we want to be. Part of the human experience is that we need to do hard, often.  It looks different in different stages of our lives, but it is a constant. Remember, you have done hard before and you are still here.

Difficult conversations can be painful, uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing, and sometimes life-changing. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these types of conversations, but there are tools that can make all the difference.

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