Are you avoiding a difficult conversation? Maybe you are afraid of an explosive reaction, or of being minimized or turned down. It is normal to have disagreements and hurt feelings in close relationships. Even the strongest relationships must address painful issues. Difficult subject matter like hurt feelings, broken promises, or dishonest dealings have the potential to ruin a relationship. But skillful communication can help a couple face the difficulty together.
The next two blog posts, I will give you a template on how to have a difficult conversation. I want you to have the SECRET WEAPON to trans-formative conflict resolution so that all your relationships, whether at home, work or school, can benefit.
When you have to set a boundary, challenge a behavior, or get more information in the relationship, you may stress about how to do it with the least amount of discomfort to both parties. If you are in a strong and mutually respectful relationship, this tips and skills may be hard, but doable with practice. If you are in a rocky relationship, these skills are still helpful, although, you may get disappointing results from the other party.
- The truth can hurt. The honest truth, when presented with love and respect can hurt a little, but it should never harm. Like a flu shot that stings and leaves your arm sore for a day- it hurts, but is protecting you from something much more painful and giving you a gift of immunity. No matter how loving you present the truth during a difficult conversation, it may sting for the other person to hear it. Your goal is to be thoughtful, gentle, and firm.
- Wait until you’re ready. If you think the conversation could turn volatile, make sure you prepare yourself for the worst case scenario. Take some time to think, journal, pray and research your topic. Pay attention to how you feel, and what you need. Maybe you need a third party to be with you, maybe you need to drive your own “get away” car. Maybe you want to talk by telephone only. Wait until you have these details worked out.
- Know what you want. It’s one thing to complain about what hurt you, and it’s quite another to identify and verbalize what you need instead. This takes some thought, practice and bravery. Think about what it is that you really want, what would make a difference to you, and why it matters.
- Find a Good Place and Time. Think about the venue that would make you most comfortable and provide you the most support. Maybe you want to have it over coffee in a public café, or in a private office away from others. Maybe you want to have it when the kids are at grandma’s house. The place and time doesn’t have to be perfect, but preparation is very helpful.
- Think about your own contribution. It’s good to take a look at your role in the situation and see how you contributed to the break down in communication or unhealthy dynamic. Be able to verbalize that in a way that honors both of you. Something like, “I handled our conversation poorly the last time we talked, and I want another chance to resolve this,” or “I see that I avoid conflict sometimes, and this time, I want us to solve this together.”
Once you have thought about 1) the truth of the situation, 2) what you need and what you want, 3) place and time, you’ll be ready for the next blog post that will tell you the HOW. There is a specific communication formula used to help partners/friends/spouses communicate through difficult situations with the best possible results. See you next week!