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5 Tips to Make Difficult Conversations Easier

5 Tips to Make Difficult Conversations Easier

Whatever the context, difficult conversations are… well, difficult. Very few of us relish the thought of having challenging or anxiety-provoking conversations, yet often these are the most important, life-defining conversations we’re likely to have. Whether you’re facing a potentially tricky rendezvous in your personal or professional life, here are five tips to help make difficult conversations easier:

1. Have the conversation sooner rather than later

One of the most common ways we deal with anxiety is avoidance. If you want to keep your relationship with the person in question, however, trying to dodge the conversation is not a good plan. In the long run, avoidance usually leads to one of two outcomes. The first is that you reach a breaking point and snap. Annoyance, anger, resentment, hurt, and more can all build up over time if a situation isn’t resolved and processed. When those feelings become overwhelming, you’re more likely to blame, shame, and criticize, and less likely to be able to engage in a productive dialogue with the other person.

The second potential outcome is that you wait so long that the natural window for the conversation passes. When this happens, and you do eventually have the conversation, it could leave the other person wondering whether there’s anything else you want to talk to them about but haven’t. Delaying the conversation can damage the trust in the relationship, and leave the other person wondering where they really stand with you.

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2. Avoid blame, judgements, and criticism

As I mentioned above, when hidden feelings become overwhelming, we’re more likely to blame, judge, and criticize the other person, which can be toxic to our relationship with them.

Blame involves putting the majority responsibility for the situation and your feelings onto the other person: for example “You made me feel sad.” Judgement involves attributing labels to the person, incident, or event: for example, “You’re stupid” or “That was a stupid thing to do.”

These three elements are highly damaging to conversations and won’t make a challenging conversation any easier. When blame, shame (as a consequence of judgement), and criticism enter a conversation, the person on the receiving end is likely to feel attacked and will focus on trying to defend themselves, rather than on coming to a peaceful resolution.

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3. Use “I-messages”

When we’re feeling anxious, upset, hurt, or angry, it’s easy to focus on what the other person has said and done, rather than our experience. This is a surefire path to the three conversation no-nos above and will leave the other person far less receptive to what you’re trying to say. To avoid getting into a heated debate of ‘You said X,’ ‘Well you said Y,’ forget about pointing out the other person’s wrongs and stick to reporting your own experience instead. In practice, this might look like: “When you told me to shut up, I felt very hurt,” or “I felt angry when you said you would email me that piece of work on Monday but didn’t send it until Wednesday.”

By talking in terms of your feelings and needs, you’re also owning your own experience rather than placing the responsibility for your feelings onto the other person. This helps the conversation steer clear of “I want you to do this/stop doing this” and instead allows you to express yourself and what you want, without making demands.

4. Focus on specific feedback

Notice in the examples above that the speaker uses specific and objective actions and events. When emotions are running high, it’s tempting to slip into generalizations like, ‘You never help me with the housework,’ ‘no one cares,’ and ‘I’m always the one left to deal with this.’ Words like ‘always,’ ‘never,’ ‘everyone,’ ‘no one,’ and other absolutes are red flags in communication. First of all, they’re not specific. Secondly, they’re unlikely to be objectively true: very few people ‘always’ or ‘never’ behave a certain way — plus we’re not mind-readers so we’re unlikely to know what ‘everyone’ or ‘no one’ is thinking or feeling.

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Stick to specific events or instances and the other person will be far more likely address the concerns or issues you’re raising.

5. Listen and reflect

Expressing your feelings and needs is only half the conversation; the other half involves listening to the other person and ensuring that you understand their perspective. The most effective way to do this is to reflect back what they are saying and to genuinely empathize with their position.

In practice, this would look something like: “I hear you saying that you’ve been really stressed recently and I understand you found it hard to meet the project deadline with everything that’s been going on at home.” This doesn’t mean you have to be happy about the situation; you can empathize with the other person and have your own feelings about the situation and their behavior too. If the other person feels seen, heard, and understood, they are far more likely to work with you in a difficult conversation than against you.

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What are your tips for making difficult conversations easier? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

19 Definitions Of Success You Should Never Ignore

19 Definitions Of Success You Should Never Ignore

What is success?

Is it wealth? Is it happiness? Is it fame?

The late Zig Ziglar was one of the most respected modern day experts on success, motivation, and leading a balanced life. In his book Born to Win!, he argues that success cannot be defined in one sentence, but instead it is comprised of many things. One could argue that the definition depends on the individual and that one size does not fit all[1].

Here are 19 different definitions of success. Not all of these will resonate with you, but chances are at least a few of them will. Use these or find inspiration here to create your own definition of success that can be applied to your unique life.

1. Success is always doing your best.

Success can be achieved when you try your best in all aspects of everything you do, even if that doesn’t lead to big results. If you’ve done your best, you should feel proud of your efforts.

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2. Success is properly setting concrete goals.

Be realistic and concrete when setting goals. Success does not come from setting abstract goals. If you know where you’re heading, that is a success in itself, even if you don’t ultimately arrive to the planned destination.

3. Success is having a place to call home.

Home is where your heart soars. You are always successful when you can call a place home. Home doesn’t have to be a specific structure. It can be a country, a city, or even a person. If you have a place you feel comfortable and safe, you’re already achieving something great.

4. Success is understanding the difference between need and want.

If you can meet your monthly obligations and fulfill your basic needs, you are successful. Being able to identify when you absolutely need something and when you can do without it often leads to financial stability and is a great way to succeed.

5. Success is believing you can.

If you believe you can, you will succeed. Self-belief doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so if you’re able to tell yourself that you can achieve the goals in your plans, you’re doing great.

6. Success is remembering to balance work with passion.

Work without passion creates undue stress and empty achievements. Focus on what excites you. If you’re happy at your job, that’s great. However, even if you aren’t, you can balance your formal job with hobbies or volunteer work you’re passionate about.

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7. Success is taking care of your needs.

Remember to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Self-care is essential if you want to have any meaningful impact on the world around you.

8. Success is learning that you sometimes have to say no.

Success only comes with a balanced life. Part of balance is learning to say no. Saying no doesn’t mean you are selfish; it simply means you have priorities and know what you need to give your attention to at any given time.

9. Success is knowing your life is filled with abundance.

Love, health, friends, family…life is filled with abundance. Recognizing this is an important step to feeling grateful for all life has given you. If you can feel this, you are already experiencing success.

10. Success is understanding you cannot keep what you don’t give away.

You will only succeed if you help others succeed. Learning to give instead of always take is part of creating a world we all want to live in. When you help others, you will also create an environment where others want to help you.

11. Success is overcoming fear.

Conquering a fear makes you feel invincible. Even if it’s confronting just one small fear each week, that is certainly something to feel proud of. The bigger fears will take more time, but any work you do to overcome fear will lead to success.

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12. Success is learning something new each day.

Successful people understand that learning never stops. Take time each day to converse with someone with opposing views, read an interesting article on a topic you know little about, or watch a TED talk on new research. It doesn’t take long to learn, so get started now.

13. Success is learning that losing a few battles can help you win a war.

Successful people choose their battles wisely. When you know which battles will ultimately help you achieve your goals, you will be successful.

14. Success is loving and being loved back.

Opening your heart to others is difficult and can produce fear. Having the courage to love and accept love from others is a step toward a fulfilling life and great success.

15. Success is standing your ground when you believe in something.

Successful people never give up on things they believe with all their heart. You may hold views that many people disagree with, but if you’ve done your research and know that it’s the right belief for you, you shouldn’t let it go without a fight.

16. Success is not giving up.

Perseverance creates grit, and grit achieves success. Even if it takes years to achieve a goal, persisting is key if you want success.

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17. Success is celebrating small victories.

Anytime a goal is reached or an obstacle is overcome, take time to celebrate, even if it’s something small. All goals require smaller objectives to be achieved first, so each time you complete one, take time to appreciate the work you put into it.

18. Success is never letting a disability hold you back.

Disabilities do not define a person’s success. The body and mind will compensate. Just because you can’t do absolutely everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Do what your body and mind allow and always push yourself. That is true success.

19. Success is understanding that you control your destiny.

Your destiny is controlled by you and you alone. Take responsibility for your actions and their consequences and you’ll find that you naturally become more successful.

The Bottom Line

Success can be defined in many ways. If you are experiencing happiness, love, or adventure in this moment, you’ve already found success. Keep it up.

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Featured photo credit: Dino Reichmuth via unsplash.com

Reference

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