Hard conversations make everyone sweat a little. Especially if there weren’t great examples for how to handle hard conversations growing up.
So, because they’re unpleasant, it’s tempting to try and avoid them. But ultimately, sometimes not having the conversation requires more work than actually having it.
Let’s talk about why this is true and then we’ll get into some quick tips that can make hard conversations easier to approach.
Why it takes more work to avoid a hard conversation
Being fake, covering up feelings and managing resentment that’s building every single time the issue comes up, actually takes up a lot of your emotional bandwidth. It can be very stressful.
Telling white lies (“yeah, we’re good”; “oh, no I was just busy that’s why I didn’t respond”) also takes up mental bandwidth. You find yourself typing then retyping messages to figure out what to say or consulting your BFF for help; and then if you give an excuse or make up something to say you have to keep up the story. It’s exhausting!
What if you just don’t want to see the person for a while? Then you’re figuring out how to not run into them and altering your timing or plans.
We’ve all been there. Now that I’m laying it out…can you see how much work is going into not having a hard conversation?
Is the conversation actually that hard that you need to do all that? Are you saving yourself some stress or creating more?
Of course, there are circumstances that may make it unsafe to have a hard conversation with someone. That does happen sometimes and if there is a possibility that it may not be safe for you, then it’s great to talk with a professional about how to deal with this situation. If you feel like it is not safe to have open dialogue with someone close to you in your life, please reach out and contact us.
Otherwise, even if nothing is going to immediately change, it’s important to practice having hard conversations. It is possible that the hard conversations you need to have now will lay the groundwork for change later.
So, what are some ways to make hard conversations less hard?
3 ways to make hard conversations less hard
1. Make it simple
Keep the conversation short and sweet. Say the basics:
This happened or this is the circumstance.
This is how I feel about it, what’s this like for you?
Let’s talk about how we can move forward.
This could be sharing news that might not be great or it could be a repair conversation (which is when you talk through something hard that happened and you want to repair the relationship). If it’s a repair conversation, check out this post.
“Be clear and specific in your own mind about what you want to accomplish; don’t just go into the conversation with a vague negative feeling and an intention to let it out.” (Soeiro, Loren. “7 Tips for Getting Through Difficult Conversations.” Psychology Today. May 25, 2021. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/i-hear-you/202105/7-tips-getting-through-difficult-conversations)
Sometimes anxiety about a situation can make it seem more complicated but it really doesn’t have to be complex at all; you just need to express what you’re feeling. Going into the conversation with a positive mindset, knowing what you want to say and how you would like it to go can reduce anxiety.
2. Consider the timing.
Having a hard conversation is not something that should be rushed. Make sure it’s initiated in a moment where everyone has the time and attention to give to the conversation.
You will want everyone involved to feel relaxed and like they have the time to express what they want to say and they are not cut short.
Also, don’t drop a bomb on a text or while you’re rushing out the door.
3. Use nervous system regulation to manage your anxiety about it
Check out our blog post here to learn about this technique. You will need to accept the fact that it’s going to be uncomfortable leading up to it, but you can do hard things!
If you are trying to talk yourself out of having a hard conversation with someone, consider the impact if you DON’T have the conversation.
Do you really want to go on hiding and making up stories in order to avoid what really needs to happen, which is being truthful and talking it out?
Having a difficult conversation is a way to grow as a person and to strengthen your relationships with others.
It may not be easy but it is necessary for your peace of mind and to move forward. If you need help navigating a difficult conversation or relationship, contact us today.