It happens all the time, in all kinds of relationships. A supervisor may hold off on telling an employee they are unhappy with their performance. A child may not tell their parents about the “F” they received on their schoolwork or you keep quiet to your partner or friend about something that is bothering you.
What I have learned, is that avoiding difficult conversations and allowing thigs to burn, boil and fester is counterproductive for everyone involved. By facing these conversations head on I have also learned that it’s true that “difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”.
If you are having to face initiating a difficult conversation with a colleague, friend, partner or parent, I believe balance and sensitivity are key. I have also put together some tips that may help you to communicate your message in these difficult situations a little easier.
Your What and Why. You definitely want to have your facts straight before you start. Knowing what you are going to say and why you are going to say it is key. You also may want to try to anticipate any questions the other person may have and think about how you will answer.
Keep Calm and Carry On. It is so much easier to communicate when we are calm. Before you begin, take some relaxing breaths and try to maintain that air of calmness throughout the conversation. Keep focused and try not to get diverted from the reason that you are communicating.
Empathize. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about how they will feel about what you are going to share with them and how you might feel if the roles were reversed. You know your audience, so choose language that will resonate with you both.
Stay the course. When you have decided that something needs to be communicated then do so. Do not let yourself back down or shrink away from the conversation.
Listen, Actively. Try to relax and listen carefully to the views, opinions and feelings of the other person. Give them time to ask questions and make comments. Using, receive, repeat,respond techniques will demonstrate that you were listening.
Be aware of your body language. Speak clearly, give eye contact and try to sit or stand in a relaxed way. No crossed arms, pursed lips, or rolling eyes. Focus on the person you are speaking with and avoid any outside distractions.
Willingness to compromise. Often the solution for a difficult situation can be reached by compromising. Always try to strive for aim for a win-win outcome where everyone benefits.
So... If you have been avoiding those three little words, “we need to talk” as I was, and find yourself steering away from having difficult conversations, I hope this article will help you navigate this road that we all find ourselves on from time to time and lead you to your beautiful destination.