4 Tips to Get Through [Not Avoid!] Tough Conversations

Tough conversations.

I still sometimes hate to have them – even after being a manager for years. And being a communication expert.

There are still conversations I’d gladly sit in hours of rush hour traffic or watch paint dry than have.

But here’s the thing: I spend so much time and effort and energy AVOIDING the conversations, that the process goes on longer than necessary.

And, I still have to have the damn conversation! Because, as you know, conflict doesn’t just disappear in the dead of night.

The longer that you pretend that everything is OK and there is no conflict, the longer it will eat at you. And you will continue to give the conflict your time and energy for weeks/months/years…which ultimately only hurts you during this time.

I recently had someone tell me that I had hurt their feelings repeatedly over a long period of time – and I had no idea I was hurting them.

I felt like crap and the other person has felt like crap for a long time: and in both situations, we are spending energy thinking about and regretting the past — rather than using our time and energy to move forward.

This is why I STILL have hard conversations even though I’d rather avoid them. I want to use my time and energy to move my business and my relationships forward, rather than be stuck in the past.

Here are the FOUR TIPS for having tough conversations:

Tip 1: Plan the conversation.

Yep, you read that right: plan the conversation.

Have you ever walked into a difficult situation and thought, “I’ll just wing it”? How did that turn out?

Every time I’ve ever tried that, I walk away feeling like I was hit by a bus. Not good.

Think about what you want to say to the other person. Write it down. Take notes. Practice if necessary.

The more you prepare for the conversation, the better you’ll be able to anticipate what the other person will say AND the better you’ll be able to adjust while the conversation is happening.

Tip 2: Use an agenda.

I’m serious! You don’t have to give the agenda to the other person, although you could (I have a time or two in the past).

Again, going back to the planning and practicing: an agenda will help you stay focused.

Pick one or two specific events to talk about.

Tell the other person why the situation was hurtful, etc.

Talk about how you can work together to move forward and do things differently next time.

An agenda will help you stay focused – and not get derailed to start talking about ALL the times the other person has wronged you since 1997.

Tip 3: Set up a time to talk sooner than later.

Figure out a good time to talk with the other person. When can you have an uninterrupted conversation?

What time of day is the best to have a good conversation with your counterpart? And you?

Set yourself up for a successful conversation as much as possible. If that means rearranging something on your end to make it happen, do what you can to make it happen.

Tip 4: Be honest and genuine when having the conversation. Don’t forget to listen!

You’ve prepped for the conversation and now it’s game time.

Remember to stay calm. Take deep breaths (fun fact: did you know when you get stressed out, your lungs send less oxygen to your brain which makes it harder to think clearly?)

If you start getting emotional, ask for a break or excuse yourself to the restroom for a minute to get yourself back on track.

Let the other person see and hear how you have felt — and see and hear your commitment to making things better moving forward.

Remember to really listen to the other person while they are speaking and hear what they are trying to say.

Bottom line:

Don’t wait to have the tough conversation. It’s not fun or easy, but the more you practice this skill, the more natural it will become.

It’s better for you — and the other person — to talk it out NOW so that you can spend your time and energy to move forward…rather than stewing on the past.

Remember that change is hard!

Being honest and talking about your conflict might change the relationship.

Either way, it will give YOU more time and energy to move forward, whatever that looks like in life at work or at home.

YOU are worth it.

Keep rocking and I look forward to connecting with you soon!

P.S. Need more help than 1 blog post to deal with your conflict? Check out this Free Download! – it’s even got links to videos. 😀

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