Having Tough Conversations


What makes a conversation difficult?

difficult conversation is any situation where the needs/wants, opinions or perceptions of the involved parties are diverse, with their feelings and emotions running strong. Usually the reason behind such strong feelings and emotions is that they have a lot at stake and they dread the consequences such as a conflict.


Why is it important to manage tough conversations?

This is necessary so we can address underlying issues and unmet needs. If we allow important yet difficult topics to go unaddressed, it can foster a lot of negativity, resentment and hurt. This will negatively impact relationships at home, work, school or otherwise.

How to have tough conversations?

  • Prepare: Take time to think about what you what to discuss and what questions you want to ask. Ask yourself how you will handle displays of anger, pain or sadness by the other party and how you will regulate your own emotional response.
  • Get to the point: Do not make small-talk that distracts from the matter at hand. Be direct and explain what it is you want to discuss without rambling.
  • Be specific: Let the person or persons know the purpose of the conversation. What is the issue, how you feel about it and what you hope to achieve at the end of your discussion?
  • Acknowledge your responsibility in the matter.
  • Be mindful: Keep aware of your tone of voice, body language and facial expressions during the discussion. Know when to pause and take a breath. Be aware of your judgements and bias.
  • Listen actively: Pay attention to what the other person is saying and observe his/her non-verbal.
  • Be empathic: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Acknowledge the fact that there is another person with their own experiences and opinions in front of you.
  • Validate the other person. This is very important to have a productive conversation.
  • Offer a solution.
  • Allow the other person to ask questions: Remember that this is a conversation between two persons. It is important to listen to queries from the other party. This ensures clarity and a satisfactory solution.

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