How to Have Difficult Conversations that Nobody Wants to Have

In our lives, we don’t actually get to do everything that we like. Sometimes, we might be forced to have some unpleasant conversations that we do not enjoy at all. Whenever this happens, we should be prepared and face the situation with tact and dignity. Here’s how to have difficult conversations that everybody dreads having.

Person holding a question mark sign in front of their face

Image source: Max Pixel

Why are difficult conversations so unpleasant?

Once in a while, we have to bring up a difficult topic with people that are close to us. This is a great source of anxiety for many people, who often postpone such discussions for a later time when they might feel more prepared. Why do we dislike such conversations so much?

This happens mostly because we regard the particular topic as something unpleasant and uncomfortable. It might concern an issue either we or the person talking to finds sensitive. In other cases, we might not have something nice to communicate to them, and we might be afraid of their reaction.

Actually, the source of anxiety comes from the fear of conflict. The first thing we think about when we bring up the uncomfortable topic is that we’ll upset the other person. As a result, to avoid arguing, we avoid the entire conversation. This is not a solution, as you should still approach the topic, so here are some tips on how to have difficult conversations.

How to prepare for the conversation

To make sure everything goes smoothly, you should get ready to start the conversation and bring about the unpleasant topic. First of all, you need to convince yourself you should really have this discussion. Then, settle the fact that its purpose is to solve some issues and not to hurt the other person.

Ask yourself what you are trying to solve through the conversation. Then, try to identify some potential reactions you might get, as well as the other person’s intentions. You should take care of your attitude as well. The secret is to stay as objective as possible and avoid being defiant. Once you have taken this emotional training, it’s time to learn how to initiate and deliver the difficult talk.

How to have difficult conversations

1.      Do not delay the moment

The first step is to admit you should have this conversation. Delaying it won’t be a solution, it would rather make the problem worse. Therefore, take responsibility and initiate the talk. Tell the other person you want to discuss with them, and avoid hurting others because you are not willing to feel uncomfortable.

2.      Get ready for all kinds of scenarios

Not all endings are happy, so you should be prepared for all kinds of outcomes. The other person might not react nicely if you deliver some bad news, and you should expect it. Do not make something dramatic out of it, and face any kind of response with maturity.

3.      Put yourself in their place

A good solution is to empathize with the other person. Try to step in their shoes, and think about what you would do if you were them. This way, you might identify what makes them react how they do, and thus improve some matters. You might discover your attitude wasn’t precisely the right one, or stumble upon some mistakes you made.

Two people having a conversation while being out for coffee

Image source: Pexels

4.      Keep only the relevant facts

When announcing the issues, limit yourself only to those that matter. Instead of repeating facts and situations that are not directly related to what you are discussing, choose those that make a difference. For instance, point out those instances that influenced the conflict or the unpleasant situation.

5.      Take responsibility for your own mistakes

This might be the most unpleasant part, but it’s absolutely necessary. You should admit in front of the other person that you were wrong, and that you are willing to fix it. First of all, you should understand the scope of your mistakes. Then, focus on how to fix them and bring a better outcome.

6.      Show how much you care

Since you started this difficult conversation, it means you care enough about the matter. However, don’t take the other person’s mistakes and make them feel bad about it. Show them you want to solve the problem, and care about their opinions in an equal matter. Ask them how they feel, what suggestions they have, and how they think they can solve the problem.

7.      Be understanding and flexible

Once you’ve heard their point of view, it’s time to consider it. They might have brought some suggestions that are worth applying, and might bring the conflict to an end. Also, they might have offered explanations for some of their actions.

In this case, you have to stay open-minded. Mediation can be a real solution, so try to reach a consensus with the other person. Being open to change is not a bad thing, especially if it solves the issues.

8.      Do not take anything personally

As the discussion is close to an end, try to remain objective. If you have assessed the issue properly, you can see there might be no need to take the matter personally. Even if the answer is not positive for you, show the other person you appreciate their decision. This way, you’ll avoid conflicts and maybe bring the problem to an end.

9.      Treat the other person with respect

This is probably the most important tip during a difficult conversation. You should keep it in mind throughout the entire discussion, and remember it whenever you face a similar situation. There are more chances to solve a problem if you give and receive respect. This might make both parts more understanding and willing to listen to each other’s point of views.

Stressed woman covered by some layers with words related to stress

Image source: Pixabay

Summing up

Having a difficult conversation is definitely no easy task. You need to be careful how to prepare your discourse, find strategies to deliver unpleasant news in a nice way, and do everything you can to solve the problem. It’s natural to feel a lot of anxiety when approaching a sensitive topic, but you can overcome such feelings if you try hard enough. The secret is to stay objective and open to change, and the outcome of the conversation might not turn out so bad.

Image source: Pixabay



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