Master Difficult Conversations
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Recently, I’ve had to give not-so-positive feedback to a person close to me. I dreaded it. I could feel my heart palpitating, the knots twisting in my stomach, and my palms sweating. Do I really need to have this conversation? I asked myself. I would prefer NOT to do it, but deep down I knew it wasn’t an option. If I said nothing, the resentment would build up inside me until it burst out in some unhealthy way. But how could I say it without alienating this person? What if they didn’t take it very well?
Without scientific evidence to back me up, I think I can confidently say, NO ONE LIKES DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS. (If you do, please contact me, and I’ll retract my statement.)
But why do we hate them so much? Well, quite simply, it all comes down to fear. We fear that we will hurt feelings and permanently damage the relationship. We fear the other person will either erupt in anger or sulk in silence.
When we are scared, our minds operate in a fight or flight mode. This is why so many of these conversations go awry or never happen at all. Many believe it’s not possible to have a good relationship with a person AND bring up touchy subjects.
But that’s wrong. There is a way to broach controversial topics AND have a positive outcome. As I prepared for the aforementioned conversation, I remembered a book I owned called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High. I can’t recommend this book enough. Buy it. Read it. Everyone can benefit from it.
I’ve summarized some key points for you here:
The authors define crucial conversation a discussion between two or more people where 1) the stakes are high, 2) opinions vary, and 3) emotions run strong. It’s those conversations that can go sideways very quickly.
It Starts With You
You cannot control how others will react but you can control how you do. So, start by observing your own behavior and ensuring you are practicing good conversation techniques. Once you get the hang of it, you can model it for others.