How To Have ‘That’ Difficult Conversation

The thought of actually having a difficult conversation with someone is enough to make anyone run for the hills! And why wouldn’t it? The fear of hurting our own or someone else’s feelings, disturbing our own peace of mind and causing friction and conflict is not something which most people generally relish.

However, although some heated situations may end up fizzling out, it’s also true that a lot of unfinished thoughts, feelings, situations and emotions can be repressed and held within each of us to the point that we either reach a fiery boiling point or we end up feeling triggered, shaken up and eventually these repressed feelings become displaced, leak into other random situations and may even be projected onto other people.

Often difficult conversations are unavoidable; perhaps it may be related to your career, family, a friendship, a marriage or relationship. So is it possible to have a truthful and frank conversation with someone without causing destruction or upset to either others or ourselves? And ultimately the most important question of all: is it worth having that difficult conversation?

Here are 6 tips and questions to consider when faced with the prospect of having a difficult conversation.

  1. Ask yourself how you’re feeling right now and respect your feelings by expressing them either to the other person if you’re able to do so, or if it’s premature then express your feelings through an activity such as sport, dance, meditation, music, art, running or by taking a brisk walk. Often it’s all too easy to bury our feelings and to wear a smile, but ask yourself how truthful you’re being to yourself, your happiness and wellbeing.

  2. Are you reacting within the imminent aftermath of a situation or have you had time to fully reflect and review the situation? Often it’s very easy to react instinctively within in a split second without having really allowed time to digest what has happened. On the other hand too much time can result in recurring experiences, repressed feelings, overwhelm, bitterness and frustration.

  3. What is your fear and how is this preventing you from considering or approaching the subject? Once you’ve clarified this, positively challenge your fear and ask yourself what’s the risk of either having or not having that conversation? Always consider both sides and draw up a list for each. Once you’re aware of what is right or wrong for you and the situation you’ll be able to take the next steps.

  4. Ask yourself what do you want to ultimately achieve from your conversation? If it’s just to hurt or aggravate the other person then think again. This pattern rarely results in a positive outcome and could end up backfiring. Instead, a more positive result would be to truthfully communicate your feelings and to understand further what has happened. In order to do this clarify and break down your larger goal into small important points. 

  5. Then once you’re ready, organise to talk at a mutually agreeable time. Catching someone off guard could either be a positive spontaneous experience, or it could also backfire if you catch someone quickly or at the wrong time. Then once you’re both available, listen and try to consider and communicate your understanding not only from your own perspective but also the other person’s experience. All too often we jump into our own thoughts and feelings without thinking about the other person. Starting your conversation off with a positive point also supports yourself and the other person to communicate with a little more ease. Also remember the old adage ‘things may not always be as bad as they seem’. For instance the other person may not have realised the result of their actions. 

  6. Acceptance: know that you have done all that you can do in order to open an opportunity for a rich and diverse conversation. However, if you find the other person reacts negatively or is closed off then this may be a reflection of their issues which they will need to to manage and in this case, their reactions are not always a reflection of you. Offer your support and also leave them space to consider and explore their feelings. Alternatively, if the other person responds well and is willing to cooperate then you will have created an opportunity to learn, to develop and to build better personal and professional relationships founded on a rich understanding and a mutual respect not only for other people but also for yourself.