This is the third of the blog posts based on the top ten most read Straight Talk Tips that go to my clients each month. The tips are free and you can sign up for them here

Make a plan - speak up

Re title: Tips for holding difficult conversations

At one time or another we all face conversations that are problematic, sensitive and difficult. Some have the potential to be disastrous for relationships or career limiting at work. Conversations like this can be with toxic colleagues, disagreeable managers and difficult employees: in families with controlling parents or siblings with whom you don’t get along: and with friends and neighbours where one conversation can make the difference between a smooth relationship and one of ongoing disagreement. Then there are the conversations with your in-laws…

These conversations all have the same characteristics. They are difficult and scary; the stakes are high, and most of us prefer to avoid them.

The first mistake most of us make is to say nothing at all. We hold our tongues and bite our lips, hoping the problems will resolve themselves or just go away. That seldom happens. But what is guaranteed to happen is that our stress levels soar until the pressure cooker of feelings explodes in harsh words and anger. Unfortunately, much of what is said under these circumstances is more likely to make things much worse, not better.

Conversations that take place in the heat of the moment with emotions on both sides running high rarely lead to any rational and constructive conversation. The real issues might not be addressed at all in the flurry of blame and accusation that passes for conversation and it is very unlikely that any solution will be discussed to which both people are in any way committed.

When you face a scary conversation, there are two principles to keep in mind.

The first principle is to speak up sooner, even when it is the last thing you want to do. Speak up before your emotions get to boiling point and render you incompetent to hold even the simplest conversation. Speak up before the behaviour of the person that is driving you crazy becomes entrenched into a pattern or a habit that will be even more difficult to change.

The second principle is to make the conversation as safe as possible. While you need to speak up sooner than later, do not do so in the heat of moment. Start by thinking through what you are going to say before you say anything. Any plan is better than no plan at all. Stick to the facts and remember that feeling strongly about something does not make it a fact, and believing that you are right, does not make you right!

These conversations are never easy, but if you speak up before they supersize, and think before you speak, you may be surprised at how many difficult issues you can talk about in safety without doing any damage at all.

Related posts

Leave a Reply