Can We Chat? A Guide to Having a Difficult Conversation

written by Katie McMinn May 17, 2016
Can we Talk

Difficult conversations are just that…difficult. I learned early on in life to have difficult conversations. It’s amazing I didn’t become a therapist. During my tween and teen years, I helped facilitate several difficult conversations among friends, siblings, etc. What I learned is that you need to prepare before you start the conversation, speak assertively and listen during the conversation; and follow through after the conversation. Here are my tips to help you have a conversation that ends with a positive outcome.

Helpful Hints:
1. Be clear about the problem.

You need to clearly identify the problem so you can effectively communicate that problem to the other person involved. Before you have the conversation ask yourself these important questions: “What behavior is causing the problem?” “How is the problem impacting you and the other people involved?” “How does the problem make you feel?”

2. Identify your objective.

You need to have a reason for this difficult conversation. Knowing your end goal will help you stay on track and address the problem in a productive way. To determine your objective ask yourself: “Why do you want to have this conversation?” “What do you hope with change after this conversation?”

3. Manage your emotions.

You have to keep your cool. Getting angry, sad, or upset is going to derail you from your objective. When you notice yourself getting emotional stop and take a moment to inhale and remind yourself of your objective.

4. Listen.

I’m not talking Beyonce in Dream Girls listen. I mean listen to the other person. You need to hear what they are saying and respond in a respectful fashion. Don’t be waiting to speak next. Listen to the concerns, problems, and feelings of the other person.

5. Come to an agreement.

Now this agreement needs to benefit both parties. It should be fair and reasonable. Both of you should come to an agreement and be able to walk away from the conversation feeling better about the situation and positive about the future.

6. Follow through.

Follow through with what has been agreed upon. Make sure the other person holds up their end of the deal, if possible help them hold up their end. With that said hold them accountable.

Difficult conversations can be the best thing for a relationship. In a healthy relationship you need to respect each other enough to talk about things that are bothering you. You also need to work together to come up with a solution that meets both people’s needs. If you can’t seem to jump start this process it is perfect alright to hire a mediator a.k.a a therapist if needed.

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