Having Tough Conversations
Tough conversations are inevitable – whether in the workplace, at home, or with your closest friends, there’s always some sensitive but necessary topic that should be addressed. The mere thought of a tough conversation can sound intimidating. We may overthink them, avoid them, or go into them with a single mindset. While it can be tempting to associate tough conversations with conflict, we sometimes fail to realize that these conversations do not have to be a dispute about who is right and wrong. They can simply be an exchange of thoughts and feelings if gone about with respect in mind.
Given current events, right now is a crucial time to use our voices. A big part of having our voice heard, though, is using them well. Here are some tips to help you effectively navigate tough conversations!
Assess Your Goals – Take some time to consider why this conversation is important. Is it to educate yourself and gain a new understanding? Is it to help someone be more conscious of how their actions can affect others? Or, maybe it is just simply to let someone know how you are feeling. Know your intentions before you start.
It Is Not About Winning – Sometimes tough conversations can feel like a power struggle over who is the one ‘in the right’ where both parties end up focusing on defending themselves instead of listening to what others have to say. A true conversation is a dialogue between two people, not two people taking turns talking at one another.
Actively Listen – Make sure to acknowledge your counterpart’s perspective. You want them to feel like they are being heard. Validating what others are saying through verbal or nonverbal cues can show this. Something as simple as a little head nod or eye contact can go a long way. Showing them that you are listening will help them actively listen to your point of view as well!
Confirm Your Understanding – Checking to make sure that you are understanding is a great way to show that you are listening. You can do this by elaborating on their points, repeating what you heard, and asking if you interpreted their opinion correctly.
Value Connection and Growth – In the end, be proud of yourself for connecting with another person. You do not need to reach some predetermined conclusion or solution for the conversation to go well. If sensitive topics are the center of these tough conversations, they may not end with someone changing their minds. However, by engaging in them, both parties can gain a more mutual understanding and respect for one another.
While tough conversations can be difficult, they are worth it! They have the power to help us grow as individuals and as a community. So, challenge yourself to take on that tough conversation this week! Once you’ve started, check-out our post Keep the Conversation Going for additional tips to engage in healthy dialogue.
Before you enter a tough conversation, spend some time mapping it out! Not only will it help you feel more prepared, but it will help keep the conversation productive and beneficial for both parties. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your objective for the conversation?
- How do you typically respond when conversations get hard? Do you get defensive? Do you shut down? Have a solution to this in mind that you can try the next time. Maybe it’s something as simple as taking a deep breath!
- How will you ensure you notice when others in the conversation are feeling uncomfortable? Will you observe their body language? Occasionally ask how they are feeling? If you do sense this discomfort, how will you make them feel at ease?
- How will you generate a mutual understanding? Consider what will work best for the person you are talking to.
It will be beneficial to ask the other person to answer these questions, too. It can give you a good insight into their point of view and help create a sense of trust and understanding. For more ways to effectively facilitate tough conversations, check-out our post on feedback.
*Meet the Author*
Brielle graduated from Chapman Univesity with a B.A. in Strategic and Corporate Communication and a minor in Leadership Studies. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Health Science and Strategic Communication.
Favorite Quote: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – E. M. Forster
Fun Facts: 1) I love to paint in my free time 2) I would love to have a pet snake 3) I like to go on new hikes on my days off and identify plants along the path!