No one likes having difficult conversations. I know personally I hate being wrong, while at the same time thinking I’m a little more right than everyone else. That’s not a good mix but I’m guessing I’m not the only one. I meet so many people deathly afraid to have difficult conversations. They think it’s a war or hold back until they explode. They enter the conversation with clips full of ammo, and then wonder why the other person got hurt. It doesn’t have to be this way!
I shared two previous posts on the subject. There were a few extra pointers I had written, but waited to share. Below are the extra pointers to having a difficult conversation. But, to catch up- read:
Don’t Emotionally throw up on the Other Person:
I’ve known many people who, when hurt, go on and on about how much you’ve hurt them. When the conversation is over the person sharing feels better and says things like, “Whooo, I feel better now that that’s off my chest!” BUT, the other person now feels disgusting, like they were just thrown up on. If you’re trying to “get it all out”, it may be helpful to you, but NOT the person who hurt you. Instead, your conversational goal should be honesty, but only share enough that will help restore the relationship. You want them to understand how you were hurt or disappointed, but not to be hurt themselves.
Not Everyone Responds Well:
I wish the world was full of unicorns, rainbows, and people willing to admit they had done something wrong. Because people are generally prideful and self-protecting, too many of us would rather sacrifice a friendship than admit guilt.
If you’ve checked your motivation and enter a conversation with humility, 90% of the time the other person will respond graciously. But, I’ve been a part of conversations that ended with, “I don’t know the answer, so we’ll have to keep talking.” I remember a few years ago I had a complex interaction with a couple while planning an event. I was frustrated at them and they were frustrated at me. We sat down to talk and they were ready for war. The conversation was much more difficult than it needed to be, but I did leave feeling like I had done everything I could to restore healthy interactions. You can’t control how people will react but, out of love, you can still be willing to have the discussion. It’s still worth it and makes you and your relationships healthier!
There’s no perfect time!
Sometimes we’ll wait for the perfect time to have a discussion. My counselor was sharing one session that there’s this silent rule in our culture to wait for the right time to have hard conversations. He explained that this thinking is a lie! There is no such thing as the perfect time. If you are frustrated, disappointed, or angry, the sooner and more immediate you can share the better. Holding on to anger is like holding onto a snake. It’ll eventually bite you and if left untreated, your wound will get infected and eventually kill you. If you pick up a snake, the more quickly you drop it, the better. Don’t wait, have the conversation you need to have. I struggle with this one. I want to wait for the perfect time to have a conversation, but by the time I bring it up the other person totally forgot the situation.
Summing it up:
- It’s all about perspective: What do you hope to gain through your conversation? What’s your motivation to have the conversation? Are you looking to restore or bring more pain? Help, or hurt?
- You’re wrong!: You’re not as right as you think you are. If you have a talk, prepare to be wrong!
- I think, I feel, it seems, I noticed: You’re not a mind-reader and can only share your observations. Hope for the best in others and DO NOT assume the worst.