People usually hate confrontation. The fear of hurting someone’s feelings or getting an angry response often makes us want to avoid it.
But, with just a little prep work, we can navigate these conversations successfully and avoid a battle.
Once you learn how to handle these conversations, you’ll be more successful at work and in relationships. Your confidence will grow because you’ll be become a great communicator – and that will set you apart.
So let’s get started!
#1. Make a Plan
Before having a tough conversation, always plan it out. Write out what you need to say. It’ll create an intention for what kind of conversation you want to create.
Ask yourself, “Is my intention to be right or prove a point?”
If your intention is to prove your point or blame the other person, it’ll go downhill fast. (Or, maybe it already has.)
Here are three things to consider when planning your conversation:
- Communicate your upset in a simple sentence. The longer you talk the more likely you are to prove your point. Keep your language simple, and clear.
- Then, once you’ve stated your case, let the other person respond. The difference between a tough conversation and one that works is the ability to listen. You’ll have a better chance of resolving the issue and avoiding the blame game.
- When bringing up someone else’s behavior, stick to the facts of what happened, as in the sequence of events or what is true for you. It’s much harder to argue with a truth than a judgment.
For example, it is more productive to say, “I felt frustrated when I asked you to pick up some milk and you forgot” than it is to say, “You never do as I ask!”
#2. Be Calm, Be Ready
If you’re already stressed out or upset, conversations can escalate quickly.
There is a great acronym in 12-step programs called HALT, which reminds us: Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. When things escalate, one of these things (or a combination) is usually the culprit.
When starting a tough conversation, are you calm enough to listen and express yourself without too much anger? If so, you’ll have a better outcome.
Managing emotions plays a large part in the success of these talks. This means being able to communicate effectively without blame or shame.
#3. Say What You Mean, but Don’t Say It Mean
Express how what happened has impacted you. Stating your concern as an opinion or your perspective is more relatable than as a universal fact. It’s more inviting for the other person to actually consider your stance, which is what we all want when we are upset.
But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about what you’re feeling. If you’re hurt, be hurt. If you’re angry, be angry. Expressing how you feel is an important step in feeling heard and validated.
Use statements that focus on your experience of the behavior or event, rather than what the other person did to make you feel that way. Phrases like:
“When this happened I felt …”
“To me, it seemed…”
“I’m concerned that…”
Keeping the focus on you helps avoid blame and control. Then writing out your plan keeps you on track.
#4. Re-Adjust Your Expectations
It’s okay to want a solution, but the goal of healthy communication really is hearing each other out. If you can do that without jumping to conclusions, it invites resolution.
How you communicate impacts every facet of your life, so learning this one skill has the power to change everything for the better!
And, when in doubt, here are some quick Do’s and Don’ts for having tough conversations:
Do go into it calm.
Do hear the other person out.
Do keep the focus on one topic.
Do focus on specific behavior not a person’s character.
Do validate what you agree with.
Do stick to one subject.
Don’t blame or criticize.
Don’t use abusive language.
Don’t bring up the past.
Don’t attack the person, just the problem.
Don’t try to be right or superior.
Don’t respond to every little comment.