You’ve probably discovered, like I have, that some conversations are hard to have. As a result they can be put off; sometimes forever. Usually, it’s the fear of hurting someone’s feelings or of feeling hurt by what they might say that stops us from taking action, but in the end that doesn’t yield the best result for anyone.

When situations are left unresolved, angst builds and relationships suffer. Feeling confident to discuss things as they arise helps avoid misunderstandings and maintains respect…not as easy as it sounds!

While most people would concede that there is no way to make these difficult conversations easy, there are some steps to follow that make them easier. It doesn’t matter who the conversation is with: a colleague, neighbour, boss, partner, parent, child, friend…the process is the same.

To make difficult conversations easier…

Acknowledge what’s up
Listen first
Show respect at all times and
Use ‘We’ statements to move forward.

As I’m sitting here this afternoon contemplating a slightly tricky conversation that needs to be had, this is a good reminder for me to keep these steps top of mind!

Acknowledging what’s up requires stating how you feel about what is on your mind. The formula is “I am feeling _________ about ___________ (something that happened, a behaviour etc) Stating how you feel keeps the focus on the facts and avoids the blaming or shaming that often goes along with You statements.

Be prepared to listen – first. Ask, I wonder what your thoughts are about this? The tricky part here is to listen for the facts and realise that the other person may not know how to handle this situation either. Remember to keep the focus of the conversation on the original issue. There may be a new perspective or some information shared that you weren’t aware of. That’s okay. Their feelings are valid too.

Keep the conversation respectful – at ALL times. This means the conversation can only continue as long as there is respect. It’s okay to say, That isn’t how I want to be spoken to and I won’t speak to you like that, so let’s try again. This part of the formula is a biggie. It’s easy to say something flippantly that won’t help you achieve the desired outcome and only burns trust, rather than building it.

Use WE statements to move forward. By keeping the focus off YOU or I and talking in terms of WE, it’s easier to find a way forward, together.

Things like choosing the right time and place are also important. Turn the phone off and whenever possible, speak face-to-face. Avoid texting and phone conversations if possible – it’s too easy to read between the lines and miss the facial cues which makes a good outcome more difficult, not easier!

One other thing…it’s easy to talk about the best way to do things, but at some point it’s necessary to bite the bullet and have the conversation. It won’t be easy, but it can be easier with the right conditions in place.

Warm regards