Hard conversations – you know the ones I mean!
I’m talking about those conversations that you dread down in the pit of your stomach. The hard conversations that make you feel slightly nauseous just thinking about.
Whether its related to a personal, health or work issue these sorts of conversations are always difficult.
Here are ten tips for making hard conversations a bit easier.
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Don’t stick your head in the sand
Your first thought might be to avoid the conversation altogether.
Granted in some cases where we might have taken something too seriously (or not seriously enough) or we simply need some time to calm the hell down, waiting can be beneficial.
As we all know saying the first thing that springs to mind is NOT always a good thing.
Pretending something isn’t happening and hoping it will simply go away by itself doesn’t generally work either.
If you know you need to have a difficult conversation with someone own up to it.
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Don’t play out scenarios in your head
I’m guilty of this one myself.
You know you have an unpleasant conversation coming up – so you practice what you are going to say in your head.
Seems harmless enough!
Preparing for what you are going to say and obsessing over what you are going to say are very different things.
The obsessing part goes something like this. You plan out your side of the conversation and worry about the response. You think about it some more – you worry more. Then it’s time to rehash and repeat the conversation (more worry), followed by quickly jumping to the worst case scenario.
Before you know it the whole (imaginary) conversation is a big old mess and you are feeling more anxious than ever (over something that hasn’t actually happened).
Prepare for what you are going to say but try to skip worst case scenario thinking.
You don’t always know how the other person is going to respond.
Related post – How to Stop Obsessing
Talk in person
I know we live in an era where people are lost without their smartphones however this technology should not be used for having those hard conversations.
I’m going to be blunt on this one because it’s one of my pet peeves and something I feel is doing modern relationships and friendships a great deal of harm.
Do not break up with people by text message. Don’t have a serious discussion or fight for that matter using text messages.
Text messages are one of the worst forms of meaningful conversation. They are by nature abrupt, brief and a lot of the time come across as rude. Hardly a healthy setting for a difficult conversation.
Man or woman up and do the right thing (the non-cowardly thing) and talk face to face.
If you are separated geographically and need to have a serious conversation at least pick up the phone and talk.
Related post – 5 Communications Mistakes That Can Mess With Your Life
Be to the point without being brutal
Some things you just don’t want to blurt out. Remember stuff you say can’t be taken back.
Saying ‘I’m sorry’ does not fix all things.
Insults or name calling in the heat of the moment can have serious repercussions. Be to the point but always remember this is another human being that you are speaking to.
Need extra help with a difficult conversation? These books can help.
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
- Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
For the best books on having conversations, make sure you read my post 12 Best Books on Having Better Conversations for some excellent book recommendations.
Stick to the facts
Some conversations particularly those based around work need to be backed up with facts and figures.
If this is the case, stick to the topic at hand. Don’t let personality conflicts or personal feelings get in the way.
Keep the conversation based on facts and if someone tries to steer it off topic, gently guide them back on track.
Related post – 3 Serious Communication Mistakes You Could be Making at Work
Whilst we don’t want to come across as rude or blunt, you don’t need to be long-winded about it either. Don’t make a difficult conversation a big song and dance.
No one likes having to listen to a lot of meaningless waffle to get to the actual point.
Say what you need to say in a respectful manner and leave it at that. If the person has questions, by all means, answer them.
Related post – Are You Talking Too Much at Work?
Consider the timing
Timing is such an important part of life yet often we get it all so terribly wrong.
We put off uncomfortable discussions and then have the sudden urge to break up with someone just as they are about to walk into an engagement party of a dear friend (I know from experience this isn’t an example of good timing).
It goes without saying the timing can’t always be right – that’s just life.
I personally think it’s often more about being brave and doing what you know you have to do rather than picking the exact right time to do it.
Related post – 25 Ways to Be More Courageous in Life
Know when to stop talking
There is definitely a point when we need to stop talking.
If we are in the wrong, we try to justify our actions which means we can talk too much.
Talking too much, particularly when we are anxious can often mean saying something inappropriate. Know when to call it quits.
Know when to listen
This is a skill that is invaluable in all aspects of our lives, yet so many of us aren’t necessarily good listeners, particularly when we are faced with a stressful situation.
During hard conversations, we either think about the next thing we want to say, want to get the hell out of there altogether or are thinking about something completely irrelevant.
Know when to be quiet and listen to the other person.
You have something difficult to say but instead of telling the truth you make up a diversionary lie to tell instead.
Sugarcoating a hard blow (ending a relationship with someone for instance) is one thing but flat-out lying is another.
Despite any discomfort, shame, guilt, embarrassment or whatever emotion you are feeling make an effort to conduct the conversation with dignity and respect.
Be honest yet handle people with care.
There’s no doubt that hard conversations can be difficult but they are an essential part of life. Hard conversations may cause us some initial concern but they can also result in better, closer relationships.
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I’m not the best at handling difficult situations Thea. While I don’t mind the conflict, I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings so often I’ll find myself holding things in, burying my head in the sand if you will.
Thanks for your comment. Lovely to chat to you again!
It’s never nice hurting someone’s feelings, definitely not my favorite part as well. I have certainly done my fair share of holding things in over the years as well.
I tend to do the having conversations in my head one a lot. Years ago I had to have a hard conversation with a friend about money which I was dreading. I worked myself up so much about it, when I finally got the words out she was like – okay no problem. The topic didn’t bother her at all but I had stressed about it for days. I always think about that now when I start stressing about talking to someone.
Again thanks for your thoughtful comment Joe and I look forward to seeing you here again soon.
I just discovered your blog and really like it!
Here are my thoughts on writing and literature (scrall down for the english version):
I’d love to know what you think!
Have a great weekend&greetings from Europe,
So glad I found this particular post. I am ending a long distance relationship that has been on the rocks for several months. It does indeed make me feel sick to my stomach. I certainly appreciate your wisdom and will take this advice to heart. Many thanks again!
Thanks for this great comment. I feel for you on this one. Long distance relationships are HARD! I have had a couple myself over the years though of course I appreciate that every relationship is unique so you would have your own experiences to deal with. I hope that it all works out for you and that the conversation goes as well as possible. Always a difficult situation and I wish you all the best with it going forward.
Thanks again for commenting, lovely to have you here.