As an executive coach supporting high potential women, I see the stress and anxiety that arises around having difficult conversations. When the issue we need to handle is especially thorny, we can sometimes fall into the trap of avoidance, but this ends up hurting us more in the long run because small issues grow bigger over time. Plus the longer we wait, the more emotional energy we expend which can be draining.
These tough conversations could be with a business partner, life partner, friend or coworker. Our personal relationships are where so much joy, fulfillment and happiness comes from, but they also provide ample “opportunities for spiritual growth” because we care deeply even when our buttons are pushed repeatedly and in some cases intentionally.
Being able to talk openly and honestly about how you’re feeling is a sign of true connection and respect, but it can still feel awkward and uncomfortable to start the dialogue and put yourself out there.
Taking action requires courage, but with the right preparation and a little mindfulness, you’ll feel more confident and have a better chance of coming to a mutually beneficial resolution.
Here’s a powerful framework to set yourself up for success when having a difficult conversation with someone you care about.
1. Intention: Start with a check in – why do you want to have this conversation? What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to feel after the conversation? How do you want to make the other person feel? (If you’re feeling big emotions around this conflict, it can be helpful to listen to this meditation first to help ease the discomfort).
2. Create An Ideal Space: If at all possible, talk in person or over the phone. Do not try to have a tough conversation over text message or email. It’s also helpful to try to find a time when the other person isn’t overly stressed, rushing between things or otherwise distracted. Suggestion: “I’d like to talk for about 15 minutes or so about something that’s been on my mind, is now a good time?”
…[W]hy do you want to have this conversation? What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to feel after the conversation?
3. Set the Stage & Honor Connection: Start by telling the person how you’re feeling about the conversation and why the person and the relationship is important to you. Suggestion: “I’m feeling a little nervous bringing this up and having this conversation, but I value you and our friendship so I want to discuss xyz so you know where I’m coming from.”
4. Prioritize Connection: State your intention and desired outcome. Suggestion: “I just want you to know how I felt when xyz happened so that we can try to avoid situations like that going forward.”
Start by telling the person how you’re feeling about the conversation and why the person and the relationship is important to you.
5. Be Present: Listen mindfully. Check in with your breath during the conversation and notice the physical sensations of breathing in and out. If you’re new to mindfulness and meditation, or would like to restart a daily practice, I recommend checking out my free 30 Day Meditation Challenge. Meditation can help with enhancing your focus, creating more joy, quieting your inner critic and letting stress melt away.
The goal with this framework is to bring intention and compassion to the table so you can end the dialogue feeling that your relationship is moving towards healing as opposed to creating a bigger rift.
As you go through this process, it’s helpful to remind yourself that by having this conversation, you’re not only being brave and choosing courage over comfort, but also that the relief of uncovering a shared resolution is just around the corner.