How to Have Hard Conversations

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It’s happens to everyone. Your friend is always late. You know your co-worker or friend is mad at you. Your spouse never remembers to pick up their clothes or put the lid back on the toothpaste. When these things happen, you are faced with the inevitable decision- do I bring these infractions to their attention, or not? Many times we choose to wait, hoping time alone, will fix the problem. But, it almost never does.

A Little Weird

I have always struggled when there’s relational disharmony in my life. If I’m mad at someone, or know someone’s mad at me, it bothers me until that disharmony is addressed and hopefully fixed. I know not everyone’s like that and I’m thankful not everyone’s like me. But, because of the way I think I’ve had many, many difficult conversations through the years. I know some people are terrified to have these types of talks. But, I don’t believe it has to be that way. In fact, I’ve found that difficult discussions often lead to stronger relationships/friendships. They can built trust and help foster love and respect. But, in order for that to happen, you have to know how to do it well. So, I thought I’d share 3 essential pointers to having a healthy difficult discussion. This post will focus on #1.

1. It’s all about perspective

How you view the potential discussion makes all the difference. Often, we view ourselves on opposite sides of a relational battlefield. In preparing to declare our enemy’s infraction, we put on armor and charge the field, ready to fight. This, of course, sounds terrifying to most people. It’s why we’d rather wave a white flag, and give in or give up, never letting anyone know our frustrations.

I view these conversations differently. I imagine the person and I on the same team. We’re working together, fighting the same battle. But, then something comes between us. We have to quickly get rid of it so we can continue on together. Healing the hurt between us is a win/win.

If you view the other person as an enemy you need to battle, then there will be blood and casualties. If they are on your team, and the goal of your discussion is restoring relational health, then your discussion could very well make your team or relationship stronger.

 A few questions to ask yourself to help discover your perspective:

  1. What do you hope will happen when you bring up the other person’s infraction? Are you trying to hurt them? You might say, “I just need to get this off my chest,” but you mean, “I need to inflict my emotions on you so you’ll hurt like I do.” If your goal is to make them hurt, then you’re in a battle and it’s not going to end well.
  2. Are you trying to win? If you’re heading into the conversation to “give them a piece of your mind”, or “make them understand how wrong they are,” then you are heading to battle and there will be casualties. If you build walls and throw rocks, don’t be surprised when they begin throwing rocks back.
  3. Is your motivation love? If you want to share something with another person because you love them and hope to restore your relationship with them, or help them in some way, then this is a sign your perspective is in the right place.
  4. How much do you love them? Have you ever been around a friend who had their zipper down, toilet paper stuck to their shoe, or a huge booger hanging off their nose? Everyone sees it! But, the question is, who will love the person enough to tell them? You probably have a friend/co-worker who has some glaring fault that affects you- and everyone sees it except them. Will you be the person who loves them enough to gently tell them?

 Summing it up

In Psychology there’s something called the self-fulfilling prophecy. The idea is you think something will happen, so inadvertently behave in such a way that leads towards your prediction coming true. When it comes to having difficult conversations, your perspective makes all the difference. If you believe your conversation will be war, and so you prepare for war- guess what– you’ll probably have a war! But, on the other hand, if you believe it will go well and want to make things better, there’s a pretty good chance it will. Don’t prepare for war, prepare to strengthen your relationship.