How to Have Difficult Conversations


I thought this was a good topic with Valentine’s Day approaching. A common theme during my coaching conversations is frustration or anger with another person; often someone close like a spouse or child. A question I often ask is “How have your conversations gone around this topic?” A common answer is “Oh, I haven’t even talked to them about it.” *facepalm*

Over the course of a relationship, we can build very strong mental connections. There was a time when my wife and I could easily finish each other sentences. Now, I swear she’s telepathic and she’s usually answering me before I even open my mouth. However, regardless of how well we think we know each other, we really aren’t mind readers. To work through an issue, you need to be open and honest with each other. This can be difficult because being honest leaves us vulnerable.

Once you’ve gathered your courage enough for a real conversation, you need to be ready for it to be two-sided. You and the other person both have a viewpoint and you both think you’re right. Yelling or shutting down isn’t going to get you anywhere; except maybe a few nights on the couch. Try really listening to them. There will be plenty of time to make your point. Be quiet and hear and process what they’re saying. Try some empathy. How would this situation look from their side? Once you’ve listened and tried to appreciate their view, then you can talk.

And you’re going to talk—like an adult. Face it men, we can revert back to our inner 12-year old pretty quickly when we’re feeling vulnerable. We can get pouty, snippy and sometimes downright mean. Be very aware of both your attitude and tone. Remember that this is someone you care about and you’d never do anything to intentionally hurt them. Words can hurt and you can’t take them back so be mindful of what you’re saying.

This adult conversation will go exceptionally well if you just let go of the need to “win.” The topic might be something really important to you but, quite often, we get into arguments about what amounts to some pretty petty stuff. If you’ve approached the discussion calmly and have shown real respect for the other person, then there’s a good chance they’ve listened to you too. Try to come to an agreement or compromise. There might be times when you simply can’t come to common ground and you need to stick with a contrary action to stay true to yourself or your values. If you do, make sure the other person understands that decision. Remember, they’re feeling vulnerable too and might assume your actions were done from a place of spite or hurt. Keep the final outcome in the light of honesty, trust and respect.

Whenever you’re having a difficult discussion, the best advice is to keep in the front of your mind the importance this person holds for you. See them and not the situation and you’ll likely proceed with a more positive approach.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon / / CC BY-SA

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1 Comment

  1. GREAT post! 😀 Don’t hear this enough. People are always asking me how Mike and still act like newly weds … well … we talk to each other about everything. 😀 We listen too. 😀 Thanks for stopping by so I could find your blog. 😀


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