Preparing to Have That Difficult Conversation


At one point in our lives, or another, we have all found ourselves dreading a really difficult conversation that inevitably must take place, whether it’s ending a relationship, confronting someone that has done wrong, or delivering potentially life-altering information. Some of us might even have tried to postpone or delegate it to someone else to handle. That may work a few times, but eventually we will have to face at least one heart-wrenching conversation in our lifetime. When that time comes, it is a good idea to be prepared. Preparation can go a long way to bringing about the best possible outcome.

Get Your Facts Straight

When preparing for a serious heart-to-heart, it is always best to know what you are talking about. In other words, do your homework. Whether you are asking for a raise or confronting misbehavior, knowing as much of the pertinent information as possible prior to the conversation can be quite helpful. This includes input from involved parties, expert or professional opinions and recommendations, potential benefits and hindrances, appropriate historical data, any predetermined consequences, and first-hand knowledge and experiences of the situation and parties involved. Being armed with this information during the conversation will lessen the potential for it to turn into a heated debate since it is hard to dispute facts. Make sure, however, that your knowledge, preparedness, and confidence do not come across as arrogance. Regardless of how right you are, a perceived superior or judgmental attitude will cause people to stop listening and being open to what you are saying. Getting your facts straight allows you the ability to express yourself with clarity and to stay focused on the topic and the message you are trying to convey.

Get Your Thoughts Together

Have you ever heard the phrase “think before you speak”? It is very good advice to follow, especially during a time such as this. When mentally preparing for this kind of exchange, it is best to first determine what outcome or resolution you are seeking, as well as the plan of action to get there. Next, think about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Take into consideration all the things you know about the person or persons you will be talking to. Are they the cut-to-the-chase type that only cares about the facts? Are they the sensitive type that needs lots of cushioning and reassurance? Are they the type to lash out, lay blame, point fingers, or otherwise share the misery when feeling attacked or on the defensive? Think about all the possible responses, questions, or comments they will have and try to figure out how you will address each one. Finally, you need to consider when and where this conversation will take place. For example, if you are planning on breaking up with your boyfriend, it’s probably not a good idea to do that over the phone while he is at work in the middle of a major project. Taking the time to get your thoughts together can help you think clearly and remain calm and focused on the topic.

Get Your Emotions In Check

How someone responds to a difficult topic of conversation is greatly contingent upon how the message is delivered. If you remain calm, cool, and collected, you are more than likely to be perceived as rational and taken seriously. Being mentally prepared will definitely help.  That is not to say that you should be insensitive and emotionless, or super sensitive and dramatic. Check the extreme emotional displays at the door. If you have the tendency to get worked up, or if the person(s) you will be speaking with easily pushes your buttons, expect it and prepare for it.  Try a few exercises to calm your emotions. Try getting a drink of water, counting to ten, taking a few deep breaths, walking around the block, listening to your favorite song, or saying a prayer. Whatever method you use, the important thing to remember is that keeping yourself calm will help keep the conversation appropriately focused.

Most of the time, a topic is considered difficult because you know that the other person(s) is more than likely not going to respond favorably. Being prepared factually, mentally, and emotionally can go a long way to keeping the conversation in proper perspective and focused on the current issue at hand.

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