What do you do when it's time to have a difficult conversation?
Sweaty palms, upset stomach, restless feelings?
But you know you have to have a talk...
Have you ever been in the spot where you know it's time to have a difficult conversation and it is so worrisome you aren't even sure where to begin? It is so common and yet something we often do not want to discuss openly.
When we need to have a hard conversation with someone so many feelings can arise in us that cloud our thinking and distract us. How we learned to handle the hard talks come from our past, our relationships, our emotions, etc. etc.
Today I want to share a go to skill you can use when you are in these spots. I hope you can use this quick reminder when you are feeling that the time has come to take on a hard talk with someone.
First - Define your needs.
What are you hoping will come from the conversation? There is a different way to structure the conversation if you want someone to understand your emotions compared to when you want someone to change their behavior. Take time to think over your hopes and desired outcome for the conversation.
The second step is the start of the actual conversation
Second - Describe your emotions
When we launch a conversation by telling another person what they have been doing wrong the walls go up and the defenses come out. If someone approached you with the following opening lines consider how you would feel.
"YOU ALWAYS do this!"
YOU did it again!"
I can't stand it when..."
I bet you might think....
RED ALERT. DANGER!
But if someone said
"I am feeling sad. Can I talk to you about something that happened? It has been on my mind and I want to open up."
Big difference. Right?
BUT one very important side note. This is not a recipe for conversations with people who might become violent. If you are in a situation when you are unsafe it would be a good time to consider reaching out to a professional support system. If you are in Lexington of the Bluegrass region I highly recommend Greenhouse17.
Third- Describe the situation and the feeling you attach to the situation.
Begin with clear and precise language.
"I was sad when you came home on Wednesday at 2 am and I thought you were drunk."
"I was angry when you left the room while I was still finishing my sentence."
If there is not a precise experience that you are connecting the emotion that can be OK. Consider the patterns you are observing or the past experiences.
"I get scared when I can't get a hold of you on the phone and I don't know where you after work."
THEN work on allowing the other person to respond and describe their own emotions and reactions.
Four - Discuss a compromise.
At this point both people have taken some time to describe their thoughts and feelings. Maybe the other person was not ready for the conversation and ended it. It could also be ok if you need to revisit the topic later. If there has been a conversation work together to compromise or setup an agreement about how to move forward.
Remember these conversations are not one and done but they are often evolving and may take time.
I hope you can become more mindful the next time you feel that sense of worry about a tough conversation and use these skills to help you convey what you are feelings and have a more productive talk with the person you love or need to work with.
Be in touch if I can help out in any way.