As promised here is part 2 of your guide on how to have a difficult conversation. In review, Step 1 is: Make sure the reason for the conversation is more about YOU than about them. Step 2: Decide what is the result you want at the end of this conversation. Step 3: Coach Yourself. Remember, if we want to have real and authentic relationships, having these conversations are essential and this will help you have a template to work from.
Step 4: Plan out your talking points (starting with a cushion can help)
It is very helpful to plan out some main talking points that you want to cover before you go into the conversation especially if you predict that there may be some emotions that come up. I like to start off with a little cushion that sounds something like “Listen, I need to have a talk with you, and I believe that this may be hard to hear, and it is hard for me to discuss, but I care about our relationship enough to talk it through” this sets a nice tone and gives permission to launch into the discussion.
It is also important to lead with facts and to be as specific as possible. If I were to have a conversation with someone at work, it is not helpful to tell them, they are being unprofessional, or disrespectful. It’s more productive to to give specific examples of when they came in to meetings late or made comments that you found to be unprofessional for example. Lead with the facts, and this will help lessen some of the drama that may arise. Do not assume that they know what upsets you, or what you find unprofessional, or unacceptable.
Be ready to listen to them with openness. Curiosity can really help here. I often say, “Help me understand why you have been coming in late several times a week, or “I want to know what is going on for you”. It helps the person on the other side be less defensive and can feel like you are giving them the benefit of the doubt while still bringing up the issue in question.
Step 5: Practice what you will say
Once you have your main talking points written down and your proper mindset in place, then I recommend either by yourself, or with a trusted partner or friend, practice what you have planned. You are less likely to get thrown off topic, if you have rehearsed what you want to cover ahead of time. Role play possible responses as well.
Step 6: Have the difficult conversation! JUST DO IT!
If you follow these steps, you will have everything you’ll need to be successful. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, or they won’t get upset, but you can trust and be proud of yourself for showing up for yourself and this relationship in the most meaningful way possible. Observe their reactions, don’t absorb them and when it is over pat yourself on the back for being willing to communicate in this way.
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