You have put it off or avoided it for a little while, but the problem won’t go away and now you feel it has reached a stage where you have to have the inevitable confrontation with someone. Before we start;
There are certain circumstances where you cannot have a confrontation:
- You have witnessed or the situation involves illegal activity
- You do not feel safe or abuse is involved
- Difficult relationships or events that are better left in the past
If any of the above rings true, then this post is not for you and it is better to seek professional advice right away. If the above is not the case-then read on!
In most cases it is human nature and common to try and avoid conflict, especially if you are on the receiving end, but this mainly seems to cause more of the same. It is not easy to conduct a difficult conversation but there are ways to make it effective. These tips can help if you need to have a long-avoided conversation in a relationship, at work or within the community.
Here are 5 tips on how to have a difficult conversation:
Do not start a conversation without having a plan. Try not to bring emotion such as anger into the conversation. To not prepare is normally a disaster about to happen. Not only should you think rationally on what you need to say to them, but also consider the impact on the other person and how you think they will react. This does not mean that you talk your way out of it, just consider on what you think the outcome will be. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be.
Consider what you want the outcome to be following the conversation you are about to have with that person. Generally, there are three outcomes when conducting a difficult conversation:
- A definitive solution which is your desired result
- A mutually agreeable strategy or plan which is a roadmap for finding a solution
- A mutual understanding which may not solve the problem but will defuse the conflict
#2 Discuss it with someone you trust
Sometimes sharing what you are going to do with a friend can help. They may give you a fresh perspective or provide with something that you have not considered. Your friend should be able to empathise with you.
Tell your friend the following:
- Tell your friend the reason why you need to have this difficult conversation with this other person
- Your feelings towards the other person
- What you feel the other person is feeling towards you
- What you are going to say to the person
- What you hope the outcome will be
Do not get angry with your friend if they do not agree with what you are about to do or, in the unlikely event, if they feel that the other person is right. Listen to what they have to say as it may be the best thing you did. Being your friend does not mean they have to agree with everything you say but they should empathise with your position and provide insight into why they do not agree with you. Remember all this is part of your planning stage.
#3 Your difficult conversation
Consider how you are going to conduct the difficult conversation. Is it in person, by phone or video call? In person is likely to be the best, but whatever option you take, make sure it is what you feel most comfortable with.
The elements of your difficult conversation should include:
- The opening statement. The reason why you want this conversation.
- What you are feeling at this moment and why.
- Tell them that you want to discuss the way forward for both of you,
- When it is their turn to speak try not to interrupt and carefully listen to what they have to say. Stay in control even if the conversation gets heated.
Once you have both made your opening statements, you next add the following to the conversation:
- Explain why you have raised this conversation as you want to work this problem out.
- Ask them why do they think the situation has come to this stage?
- What you need from them
- What can you do to help?
- Agree a way forward
#4 During the difficult conversation
During your conversation, try and remember the following:
- Trust the conversation process and always listen to the other person, as this can greatly improve the conversation.
- Whether the conversation turns good or bad, always remember why you wanted the conversation in the first place.
- You may dislike the person but tolerance is important here. Always stay in control of your emotions.
- Remember the hopes you shared with your friend about the outcome. Is there something during the conversation that has supported your hope?
- If it goes well then you have most likely gained respect from the other person and an understanding of what they are feeling.
- If it is not going well, remember at least you tried.
#5 Ending the conversation
Always try and end a conversation with an agreement of a way forward. Consider what has changed following this conversation and discuss it with them.
Even if the outcome did not go the way you wanted, always provide a gesture of gratitude. Thank them for allowing you the opportunity to hold the conversation.
#1 See our supplementary video ‘How to say what you think-not what they want to hear’ by clicking on the image below.
#2 See The Amazing You an Emergency Change Your Life Plan that works and can help you put your life back on track. Click on image below for details.