8 Rules For Having The Hard Conversations

Having The Hard Conversations

I'll be perfectly honest. Having the difficult conversations is not something I've ever done, enjoyed, or been good at. Most of my life I've avoided the hard conversations in order to maintain my "role" as peacekeeper.

You see, for years I'd been on the receiving end of these conversations, yet was unable to initiate or have one that was important to me. Something in the way I was raised trained me that it is more noble to suffer in silence than to upset the apple cart.

How did this serve me? 

A lifetime of ulcers, stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Not having the hard conversations allows resentment and anger to build up inside. You start thinking that the other person 'should know' how you're feeling, like some sort of mind reader.

Truth is, they don't...and they won't unless you tell them.

These conversations are necessary from time to time. Yes, they can be difficult, they can be painful, and could end up with one or both people crying, yet in the end it is better for all parties involved to have them.

Here are some tips on how to make having these conversations a little easier and a little more productive.

How To Have The Hard Conversation

1. Speak calmly and in a matter of fact tone as possible. This puts the focus on your message and not the emotion of your delivery.

2. Avoid using words like "never" and "always". Make your concerns and things you'd like to see change as clear as possible. Generalization will lead to escalating emotions and your points will be lost.

3. Speak for yourself, not the other person. Use "I" statements. Instead of saying things like "you make me feel _______", simply say "I feel _____ when you _____". This keeps the focus on the actual behaviors. Nobody can make you feel a certain way. Keeping the focus on the behaviors lessens the chance of the other person becoming defensive.

4. No Interrupting. This is a big one. Having the hard conversations automatically puts us in a defensive mindset. Consciously listen to the other person, don't just hear them. Don't listen to respond, listen to understand. Interruptions make the other person feel invalidated.

5. Acknowledge the other person's feelings. These conversations are hard for all parties involved. Whether you agree or not, what the other person is feeling is true for them. Acknowledge and validate their feelings otherwise you risk cutting off the conversation.

6. Don't assume. You may think you know what the other person is thinking, feeling, and what their motives may be... but you truly don't. 

7. Avoid the need to be right or 'win'. This isn't a competition and there doesn't need to be a 'right' and 'wrong'. 

8. Understand the result may not be what you want. Things don't always work out the way we want. In the end, though, it's much healthier to have the difficult conversations and be honest than to just bury everything inside.

Having difficult conversations are an unpleasant part of life, particularly when it comes to personal relationships. Yet in the end, they're necessary. Healthy relationships have the hard conversations... even if they result in the end of the relationship. 

You can't control or predict how the other person will respond to these conversations. Yet if you go into them with these rules in mind, speak your truth with love and kindness, you'll come out on the other side with greater confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem.

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