Are you someone who tends to shy away from having difficult conversations? Perhaps you find them uncomfortable, awkward, or downright intimidating. If so, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle with communicating our needs and opinions effectively, especially when we anticipate resistance or conflict. However, avoiding difficult conversations can increase stress, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities for growth and connection. That’s why today, we will discuss some valuable tips for having difficult conversations so that you can approach these situations with confidence, clarity, and compassion. Whether you’re facing a tough talk with a friend, family member, colleague, or even yourself, these strategies will help you navigate difficult conversations with grace and ease. So, let’s dive in!
It would be dishonest to say that I’ve never participated in a good bitch sesh, venting my frustration about my husband or a friend as a way to avoid having a difficult conversation.
But that was my first marriage-the one I learned a lot about what not to do in a marriage and when to know it’s not a good fit. (Hence the reason we aren’t married anymore).
And because I’ve done it, I know how liberating it can be.
But have you ever wondered why we do it when it never leads to actually solving our issues and what the consequences are?
There is so much power in being brave enough to speak up and have difficult conversations despite the discomfort it might cause. And if you aren’t tapping into it, you’re probably contributing to some of the pain we see in the world.
Why we Avoid the Hard Conversations
I can sum that up in two words – It’s easy. And we humans, we’re lazy. Plus, the majority of us prefer an easy route to a difficult one almost all the time.
I’m a devout “let’s do the hard shit” believer, but if nothing is on the line, I’m a sucker for ease. And aren’t we all? It’s why it’s so hard to stay consistent, to work out regularly, and to be better humans. Cause it all takes lots of work and a lot of getting comfortable with discomfort. Humans aren’t notoriously good at either.
That being said, talking trash about someone rather than having difficult conversations takes both of what we aren’t very good at – discomfort and work.
It takes discomfort because most of us don’t like the feelings that are associated with conflict, so speaking up is downright terrifying. It can stir up fear of not being liked or being shamed for our feelings being “too much.” What’s worse, though, is that this discomfort gets amplified the more we avoid difficult conversations.
Second, it takes work to get to become emotionally mature enough to have difficult conversations without letting your emotions run wild. Most of us don’t have much control over our emotions, and we often let our emotions dictate our actions. Therefore, when something hurts us or frustrates us, or seems daunting, it takes work not to let those emotions be the driving force in our behavior.
Lastly, it can feel really good to be validated. When we talk trash about someone (rather than having difficult conversations), they never get the chance to tell their side of the story, so no matter what, you will get the validation you’re looking for. The epitome of catharsis is to have a friend offer a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to, and another mouth to bash with, with zero accountability.
But at what cost?
Listen, no matter how much this practice has become commonplace in your life, it still never feels good in the long run, knowing you’ve just slandered someone for your own self-interest.
And if you do feel good about it, you’ve got much to learn, my friend, because talking trash will always bring you to a place in the center of disconnection, loneliness, and unhappiness. Not only does it lead to your own unhappiness, but it also taints your integrity. And in the end, all we’ve really got is our integrity and happiness.
Is it really worth it to avoid having an honest difficult conversation in exchange for your happiness? I don’t think so. Or your integrity? Not if you ask me.
There is Power in Having Difficult Conversations
Many of us live afraid of the unknown. We’re afraid of how people are going to react. We’re afraid people won’t like us. We’re afraid of criticism. And those fears control us to the point that we coward at the thought of having a difficult conversation.
But speaking up is an act of self-love. It’s being vulnerable and authentic. It’s having integrity.
Difficult conversations are a cornerstone for any good relationship to be worthwhile. So rather than placing our fear in the unknown, how much would change in our life if we instead started to have difficult conversations by saying, “this might not come out right, but I’m going to try” or “I’m going to try to explain what’s going on for me right now” or “can you give me some grace while I try to explain this thing because it’s really difficult for me?” That’s being in the arena and showing up as your authentic self, and that, my friend, is respectable and honorable.
Who would not receive those words with understanding? And if someone can’t respect that you are trying, why in the hell are they in your life anyway?
When I finally learned how to speak up instead of talking trash, life as I knew it changed. The people who weren’t for me left me, and I started attracting those who were.
And I think that’s the power of speaking up: to repel what’s not for us and attract more of what is.
5 Tips for Having Difficult Conversations
Having difficult conversations can be uncomfortable and challenging, but they are often necessary for resolving conflicts, setting boundaries, and making progress. Here are some tips for having successful difficult conversations.
- Prepare: Before the conversation, take some time to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally. Write down your thoughts and concerns, and consider the other person’s perspective. Identify what you hope to achieve from the conversation and what you are willing to compromise on.
- Choose the right time and place: It is important to choose a time and place that is private and free from distractions. This will help you and the other person to focus and have a productive conversation.
- Use “I” statements: When expressing your concerns, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. This will help to avoid blame and defensiveness. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” say, “I feel like I’m not being heard.”
- Listen actively: Effective communication is a two-way street. Be sure to actively listen to the other person’s perspective and acknowledge their feelings. Repeat back what you have heard to ensure you understand their point of view.
- Stay calm: Even in the face of strong emotions, try to remain calm and avoid getting defensive. Take deep breaths or a short break if needed to regain your composure. Staying calm is much easier when we understand that our emotions are simply a reflection of our needs. Try to stay focused on asking for what you need rather than attacking a need of yours that wasn’t met.
- Identify solutions: Work with the other person to identify potential solutions acceptable to both parties. Be willing to compromise and find common ground.
By following these tips, you can approach difficult conversations with confidence and have more successful outcomes. Remember, avoiding a difficult conversation may provide temporary relief, but it can lead to larger issues down the road. Confronting the issue head-on will lead to healthier relationships, more integrity, and greater happiness. That I can assure you!