How To Have a Difficult Conversation
So much of what we see and hear on the news or online involves a great deal of high energy and emotion. But so little of it actually helps people relate well to one another. It can be so difficult to have a difficult conversation. So we wanted to offer a few helpful suggestions and tips to help you navigate a challenging conversation. Here are 4 tips:
1. Listen Without an Agenda
Have you ever caught yourself doing this? Someone is talking to you, but you realize you’re just thinking about what you will say as soon as they stop talking. We all do this, but since we’re not on a debate stage, it’s not helpful. Relationships aren’t contests; you’re actually on the same team. So, if you catch yourself doing this, just ask that they repeat what they said. What they have to say is important to you, whether you agree with it or not.
2. Take Your Time
So often, we feel like we have to fight through a difficult conversation because it’s right in front of us. Take a break. Say something like: “You know, I’m feeling really strong emotions right now, and I need a minute. Can we put this on pause so I can listen better?”
No one argues well when they’re tired, when they’re stressed, and when they’re hungry. So, if you notice that you are not at your best to manage a difficult situation well, admit it. See if you can talk about after you’ve had your coffee. You’re not putting the other person out. Actually, you’re showing a great deal of respect for them because you want to be fully present. You show how you care for them by giving them your best self.
3. Repeat, Rephrase, and Remind
When walking through an argument or a difficult conversation, often people do not feel heard or understood. When this happens, we end up defending ourselves over and over again, because we aren’t feeling understood. One excellent way of managing this is by simply rephrasing and repeating what the other person said.
“So, what I’m hearing is that it’s really important to you that we manage our money well. Is that right?”
Doing this takes more time, and it can get frustrating to stop and repeat everything that’s said. But the goal you want to achieve is to hear the other person. They want to be understood and respected just like you. This keeps emotions in check and helps support your desire to listen without an agenda. If everyone is heard, everyone can be on the same page.
4. Use “I think/I feel” Statements
Here’s a question: Who is responsible for how we feel? We are the only ones responsible, but if we are not careful, we can communicate otherwise. Instead of saying, “You make me so angry!” say, “When I don’t think I’m understood, I feel frustrated.” This simple switch communicates a couple important things:
- You are not blaming another person or making them responsible for how you feel.
- You are simply acknowledging how you’re affected.
Keeping your emotions your responsibility, gives the other person the chance to change their behavior on their own. It’s a simple way to respect one another.
We’re Here to Help!
The Colorado Center for Assessment and Counseling offers individual counseling services for relationships and conflict resolution in our Fort Collins office. If you want more practical tools, schedule a session with one of our licensed therapists. Contact us today to schedule an initial appointment. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call our offices at (970) 889-8204.