Four steps to having a difficult conversation
Having a difficult conversation is an issue that came up with a couple of my clients this week and got me thinking about how I deal with them.
Do I get angry and release my frustrations by shouting or do I say nothing and bottle my feelings up, suppressing them with resentment?
In all honesty, I probably do a bit of both and in some situations, I'm able to follow my own advice and be assertive.
I recognised that the way I react depends on who I want to have the conversation with and my thinking in that moment.
For example, I will tackle an issue with my husband or kids head on. But with people I don't know as well I might avoid any confrontation and instead swallow down my feelings. That gives me the message that I don't value myself enough to speak up. Then the hurt I'm feeling often comes out non-verbally in my body language.
Does this sound like you?
Whether it's your boss and colleagues at work or a family member who's upset you. It's important to voice how you feel and be heard.
How do I approach having a difficult conversation?
Before you start the conversation ensure the initial wave of emotion has passed so you can have a calm and confident interaction. Then check whether the environment is suitable for your conversation. A busy open-plan office with others earwigging may not be ideal.
Once you're ready to speak use my four steps to avoid conflict and get the outcome you'd like:
1. Be curious and compassionate - start by asking questions to understand their perspective and any facts that might explain their comments or behaviour. Most people are only trying to do their best in any situation. So before you offload, check their view of things.
2. Acknowledge - listening to the other person is essential to show respect but isn't enough to help them feel heard. You also need to acknowledge you've understood what they've said even if you don't agree with them. For example;
"I understand that you were giving me important feedback..."
3. Self-respect - this is the part where you get to talk about your feelings and to show respect for yourself by speaking up. Stick to 'I' statements rather than blaming the other person as they're less confrontational. For example:
"I understand that you were giving me important feedback, however, I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn't have a chance to explain."
4. Options - you might not always need to include this when you're having a difficult conversation, but if you do keep it positive and concise. For example;
"I understand that you were giving me important feedback, however, I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn't have a chance to explain. I'd appreciate it if in future we could discuss this separately."
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