Navigating Difficult Conversations


Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Unknown

It’s inevitable. As much as you may want to avoid it, from time to time you’re going to have to have a difficult conversation. You’re going to have to tell someone what they did bothered you; ask for what you want; give feedback that may not be received well. It’s not easy. But it’s necessary if you want to maintain healthy boundaries, healthy relationships and a healthy sense of self.

The cost of not communicating is high, and can lead to stress, resentment, depression, and anxiety. All of this has a negative impact on your relationships both personally and professionally.

How we enter into and conduct ourselves in a conversation can make a huge difference on the outcome.

Be clear about the issue. Have you ever had this happen – you’re talking about a heated topic with someone and all of a sudden the conversation is hijacked by old hurts, old stories, old failures? You wonder to yourself, “how did we get here.”

It’s so important before entering into a difficult conversation to make sure you both know exactly what the issue is. This isn’t the time or place to bring up the “old stuff”. That can keep for another conversation.

Be respectful. No one likes to be yelled at, name-called, or bullied. Yet, that’s often what happens when you are in a heated conversation with someone.

You deserve to be heard, and so does the person you’re talking to. Make a commitment to yourself before entering a conversation to be respectful, be curious, and practice the art of active listening — rather than listening just to respond or pounce. Respect keeps the lines of communication open, and shows others that you’re open to other perspectives. You never know what you might learn.

Be curious. This one is important, because often we go into conversations with our own point of view and won’t budge. This is a communication stopper. If you maintain your curiosity, you’re able to see another’s point of view, ask questions rather than make judgments, and keep the lines of communication open.

Manage your emotions. In a heated conversation it’s easy to let your emotions get the better of you. We all have buttons and often those closest to us know exactly how to push them. It’s important to know what they are so that you can manage your reaction and emotions, stay respectful, and remain curious.

Managing your emotions allows you to stay open, available, and eager to find a resolution.

Own your stuff. Sometimes we mess up, say the wrong thing, and hurt someone’s feelings. That’s part of life. While it may be easier to choose to stay quiet, deny, or get defensive, the best way to address our mishaps is to own them. A simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way to healing a relationship. No explanation, defense or excuses. Just a heartfelt “I’m sorry.”

There is tremendous power in having difficult conversations and many gifts to be had if you stay engaged, respectful and curios. Having conversations that stretch us, challenge us, also allow us to deepen our personal and professional relationships, honor our values and stand behind the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves.

If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war inside yourself. Cheryl Richardson

Good luck & have fun playing with these concepts.


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