One of the many skills I have learnt and continue to learn,
through my ongoing training as a coach and through experience
as a human, is how to have those difficult conversations.
We all have to have them.
We can try to avoid them, and many people do until what we
have to say begins to fester into frustration and resentment.
If we are not willing to have these conversations, we will
remain stuck, upset, undervalued, underpaid and any other
‘under’ you can think of.
Over the last few weeks, some of my clients have had to have
difficult conversations, as have I, and I wanted to share with
you some of the tools that can make difficult conversations a
little less difficult and a little less overwhelming.
Respect yourself and the other
A very solid foundation to a difficult conversation is checking
that the person you want to communicate with is ready to have
the conversation. How many times have you started a tough
conversation and for whatever reason the other person had to
cut you short because of children, running between meetings etc.
It only takes “I would like to have a conversation with you.
Is now a good time? If not when will be?” No one likes to be
ambushed. This also means that you will not feel rushed or
ignored, and you deserve to be heard.
Be clear what it is that you want to communicate
It is worth taking the time to think about what it is that you
want to communicate and how to communicate it. I do not mean
ruminating for days, weeks or years, I mean get clear.
What outcome are you after?
Many of us go into difficult conversations with such fear and
nervousness that we end up sending emotions and words flying
out all over the place. It is important to know what outcome you
desire, not so that you can have your outcome regardless of the
other person’s feelings or input, but so that you can go into the
conversation knowing your intention. This will give you a clearer
head and you will communicate better, which means you will be
I am not sure where we got the idea that we must not mess up in
any of our interactions with other humans. I have found one of
the most powerful ways to start a difficult conversation is to
let the person know your humanness before you even start.
“I want you to know that I am very nervous about this
conversation, and that means I may say something stupid or
offensive or patronizing or manipulating, or all of the above.
This is not my intention, as I respect this relationship/situation
too much, so please let me know if that is how it feels and
I will try again.”
Leave blame in the playground
The one gift I see in blaming others is that we do not have to
take responsibility ourselves. Phew! The cost of blaming, though,
is that the other person will be unable to hear what you are
saying. Because you are blaming them, they have either closed
down and withdrawn or they are working out how to defend
themselves against the perceived attack. Instead of blame,
there is another option: stating the facts. “This happened.
How did it make you feel? This is how it made me feel?
What do you think we could do to resolve this?”
You can do hard
Sometimes the fear of ‘the conversation’ is the one thing that
is stopping us from having what we need or want or being who we
want to be. Part of the human experience is that we need to do
hard, often. It looks different in different stages of our lives,
but it is a constant. Remember, you have done hard before and
you are still here.
Difficult conversations can be painful, uncomfortable,
anxiety-inducing, and sometimes life-changing. There is no
one-size-fits-all when it comes to these types of conversations,
but there are tools that can make all the difference.
I would love to hear from you if any of these tools have worked
for you in the past or you now feel a little more prepared to
start the conversation you have been putting off.
Have a beautiful weekend. xx