Firstly, let’s look at what is a difficult conversation? A difficult conversation is a topic that nobody wants to talk about, such as having to tell a neighbour that they are being too noisy, and you want them to be more respectful; or having to tell a friend that they have body odour and should use antiperspirant! People mostly avoid these conversations, as it’s a situation they fear, mainly because of the consequences, the main one being conflicted. People naturally try to avoid conflict.
Here are eight tips that can help you prepare for and turn these difficult conversations into positive outcomes:
A way that can ease you into having these difficult conversations is to be prepared, know what you are going to say, and how you’re going to say it. If you don’t prepare, there is a chance that your fear or emotion may get the better of you. Start by jotting down a few notes, as this will help you memorise what you’re going to say, and by following your planned script, you have a much better chance of delivering the right message. If you have any statistics or information that backs up your position or your argument, make sure to have that ready as well.
Put yourself in their shoes
Placing yourself in the shoes of the other person can lead back to the first point on the planning stage, but this time from the other person’s perspective. Try expressing how you would feel if you put yourself into their shoes. This will help you to imagine how you would feel. Following this, you can ask yourself some questions: Does it make sense? Am I being fair? Am I being calm? Is there something going on in their lives that has made them behave or react this way? These are all things that you should keep in mind before you jump to any conclusions, because they may have a very valid reason for doing so and you will have to consider that.
Plan possible outcomes
Think about what are the likely outcomes? Jot them down and see which ones are acceptable to you. For example, you may want to negotiate some rules for the future? Having a few ‘what ifs?’ prepared will allow you to be able to react to the other person when they respond.
Stay focused and listen
Whilst you are having the conversation it is key to have your ears wide open and ready to listen to every detail that the other person is saying, because you might pick up on something you may not have known before. A good way to do this, after you have made your point, is to ask the question, ‘What do you think?’ This should be followed by a period of forcing yourself to listen. Also, if you are engaged and look interested in what the other person has to say, you have a better chance to get the same cooperation in return, and this could lead them to being more honest and open about their opinion.
Be open with your opinion
As you first approach the person, take the time to explain to them every detail along with a clear description of how you feel about the situation; whatever you have to say, you should say it because if you keep it to yourself it will be no use to you later on with nobody to say it too. By being honest and expressing how you feel, you will get the most out of the conversation with the other person.
Agree to disagree
Most likely, the end result may not end up being in someone’s favour. To start with, both parties should give their perspectives and both listening carefully, and with this information try and form some sort of a compromise, which may mean finding a solution that can work for both, which will make the outcome much easier and less stressful.
Find someone that can support your side
If the conversation is one-on-one, there may never be an end resolution and possibly end up with ongoing conflict. But with adding one or more people to your conversation, to support your case, can have a positive impact on the end result. For example, if you have loud neighbours and you go to talk to them by yourself it might have a bigger impact if there was another neighbour by your side to support your case.
Take care of yourself
Not all of your difficult conversations are going to end up with a good result, and this can lead to people getting emotional and hurt, so it is a very good thing to try and take care of yourself as much as you can. If there’s no solution, it’s best to discuss another possible meeting day with the other person. Whilst you are at home, thinking and waiting for the meeting, don’t let it take over your life, try and do some of your hobbies or some calm and soothing exercises to take the mind off of things. This will help you stay calm.
Following these eight tips and keeping these in your mind when you have to prepare for and go through with a difficult conversation with someone will help you get a better result, feel better about yourself, and maintain a relationship with the other person into the future.