No one really enjoys having an authentic difficult conversation. At times, just the thought of talking about a tough subject with “the other” can turn a stomach upside down, cause heart palpitations, and make knees wobbly. With those sensations, along with the worry of making things worse, the appeal of putting off the discussion can be quite strong.
Avoidance in the short-term may not be such a bad idea if time is needed to cool off, to figure out the importance of the issue and the relationship, and to put your thoughts together. However, avoidance beyond the short-term increases internal distress, often leading to emotional outbursts and issue proliferation (i.e., bigger problems down the road).
So, here are a few quick tips from our Executive Director Tim to help you say the words, “We need to talk.”
- Prepare – Get clear about your purpose, and how you are partners in this relationship.
- Listen and Learn – Let the other person talk without interrupting. Find out what’s really important to them.
- Acknowledge and Assert – Repeat back what you think they are really going for, then clarify your experience and viewpoints (without minimizing theirs).
- Identify – Discuss mutual topics (prioritize and work on one at a time) and options (be creative before judging, and build on each other’s ideas when possible).
- Decide – Mold ideas into something satisfactory for all, and how to keep communication open going forward.