Getting Started with Difficult Conversations

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We all have certain conversations we keep putting off. Is there a co-worker or family member with whom you need to talk – but don’t? You may have tried and things turned out not so good; or maybe you fear that talking will only make things worse. Whatever the reason, you feel stuck and you would like to free up that energy for more useful purposes.

One of the most common reasons people give for not holding difficult conversations is that they don’t know how to begin. Here are a few conversation openers that can be helpful:

  • “I’d like to discuss something with you that I think will help us work together better.”
  • “I think we may have different ideas about…”
  • “When you have some time, I’d like to talk about it.”
  • “I would like to hear your thoughts on …”
  • “Do you have a minute?”
  • “I need your help with what just happened (or – I need your help with …).”
  • “Can we talk?”
  • “I would like to see if we might reach a better understanding about …”
  • “I really want to hear your thoughts on this.”

All of these openers help to create an environment of respect and mutual purpose. You can say almost anything as long as you maintain these two critical conditions.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The art of conversation is like any art – with continued practice you acquire skill and ease. You can create better working and family relationships, ease communication problems, and improve the quality of your environment.

Here are 3 tips to get you started.
  1. A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you are and what you say. How you are (centred, supportive, curious, problem-solving) will greatly influence what you say.
  2. Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments.
  3. Practice the conversation before holding the real one, either mentally or with a friend. Try out different scenarios and visualize yourself handling each with ease. Envision the outcome you are hoping for.

Good luck, and remember that if you can find a mutual purpose for holding the conversation, and if you extend and maintain respect, you will be fine.

Photo Credit: FreeImages

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