Effective Conversations Series – 8 Tips to Prepare for a Challenging Conversation

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practice for effective communicationIf you have ever had to have a difficult conversation with someone, you know just how hard that can be.  I used to avoid them at all costs but have spent the last several years working on getting more comfortable with it since it can make such a difference in a relationship.

I’ve had a few recently and felt like it was time I review some of the principles that have helped me over the years.  I thought they might help you as well so I’m sharing them here.

Having difficult conversations definitely take practice…not just in having the conversations but reminding yourself of the key pieces of having a conversation go well (or as well as it can since we are not responsible for nor can we control someone else’s reaction).

Here are 8 tips for an effective conversation…

  1. Compassion – you must have compassion for the other person as well as for yourself and the situation at hand.  You may want to consider doing an exercise like the one mentioned here to bring yourself into a better space.
  2. Know that nothing is wrong and you don’t need to “fix” anything.  This is simply a conversation to gain perspective and understanding and, hopefully, come to a space that works for everyone involved.
  3. Know the other person has their own answers.  Some of their answers might surprise you.  That is why it’s so important to go into a difficult conversation trusting they have all the answers inside of themselves and you just need to listen…really listen to what they are sharing.
  4. All the solutions are present and possible.  There is a solution right in front of you…in front of everyone involved.  You simply need to work together to find it.
  5. Take a stand for their greatness.  If you think they are an idiot, incapable, thoughtless…whatever the case might be…they will sense it and you’re conversation will be doomed before it even begins.  You must believe they have the ability to be great and, if you don’t, do the exercise linked above in #1.
  6. Provide a safe space for both of you.  If either of you don’t feel safe, you will not be able to have a good conversation and get a positive outcome for both of you.  Make sure there aren’t others around; ideally, it’s a neutral space for both of you, and you have the time to finish the conversation.
  7. Detach from the outcome.  The outcome may be completely different than you expected or hoped for and it could still be really great…maybe even better than you thought it would be!  Let it flow and see what shows up.
  8. Listen with an open mind.  I can’t stress enough the power of really listening.  The steps above will help you do this and truly hear what is being shared so you can arrive at a positive solution for all.

This is the first in a series on effective communication.  Watch for the others coming soon.

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