Self Check: Having Difficult Conversations

I get extremely uneasy when faced with needing to have a difficult conversation with the people I love or work closely with. In the past, I’ve resulted to readjusting and negotiating the standards of what I feel is acceptable to avoid having conversations that may create conflict. More recently, I have been exercising my “no” muscle, so getting myself comfortable with having difficult conversations is a huge part of the process.

A difficult conversation can be talking with your significant other about a behavior that you don’t like, or confronting a family member who may be overstaying their welcome and taking advantage of your kindness. It could be with a friend who dumps all of their problems on you and then doesn’t value your opinion, or a boss who takes credit for all of the department successes (even when they played no part in it) and places blame your way when something fails. Whatever the difficult conversation may be, it can either spark resolution or spawn conflict. The result is all in our approach.

Previously I’ve approached difficult conversations by avoiding them until I just couldn’t take it anymore. The problem is it usually ended in me freaking out on the person, creating major conflict, or even dissolution of the relationship. To avoid this in the future, I did some reading up on how to have difficult conversations. I have created a list of best practices that I feel will help me (and possibly you) be successful in reaching resolution in the future.

Be Clear:
You want to make sure you are clear about your issue. Make precise points without oversimplifying your concerns. Avoid sugarcoating the problem, be direct but not combative. Be sure your conversation is tailored around a central point (the impact the issue is having on you and the relationship).

Keep Your Goal in Sight:
Know your objective and what you are trying to accomplish through the conversation. What is the purpose or the goal? Achieve this by not making assumptions (even if the person you are speaking with is giving you nothing to go by) and managing your emotions. Check your attitude toward the situation before initiating the conversation to avoid entering it with preconceived notions of the outcome.

Set a Time Limit:
Don’t exhaust the communication. If after a while there is no resolution in sight, pull back from the conversation and set a time to reconvene. Avoid tiring each other out. The conversation is important and if your goal is to find resolution and move forward, you’ll both find the time to revisit it.

Offer Resolution:
Whether its compromise or problem solving techniques, be sure you are not addressing the problem with no suggestions on fixing it (then you will be just complaining). Your resolution should include your expectations and standards that you are not willing to compromise on. Also, be willing to give the other person what they need.



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