How to Have Difficult Conversations
It may be about disappointments, differences, disagreements, or a host of other possibilities, but confrontation is critical – and inevitable.
BY DRS. BOB AND AUDREY MEISNER – JUNE 26, 2019
Oh the dread when you hear the words, “We need to talk”. Within nanoseconds it’s easy to draw conclusions and start guessing. Are you mad, again? Are you about to reveal a damaging secret? Are you going to correct me?
If you have ever felt awkward or even scared when it’s time to have a confronting-type conversation, or if your past experiences confirm that talking hasn’t resolved anything (and typically doesn’t end well) then we’d love to help you navigate a new path. At some point, all marriages will require confrontational-type conversations. It may be about disappointments, differences, disagreements, or a host of other possibilities, but confrontation is critical – and inevitable. However, the key is to use confrontation to develop a deeper connection, not to prove yourself right at the expense of the other feeling unloved or unheard.
“Great relationships don’t mean you don’t encounter problems, it means you grow together through your problems and live mature and free on the other side!”
Here are a few tips for making that happen:
1. Confront yourself first
Be honest about why you’re doing it. Make sure there’s no ulterior motive, and you’re not reacting out of anger or offense. Determine the outcome ahead of time. What do you want to see changed as a result of the encounter? How will you express love in such a way that it will land? How do you want the other person to feel at the end of the conversation? These are choices you can determine in advance.
2. Select the right time and place
If possible, try not to have important conversations over the phone or through email and text. Face to face is always better, and make sure you have privacy. Select a neutral location – especially if it’s going to be a vulnerable session and put away your cell phone to prevent distractions or interruptions.
3. Own the problem.
Speak on your behalf. Don’t blame the other person, this started with you. Not owning your part of the problem is cowardly.
4. Make it timely
The longer you wait, the less impact your difficult conversation will have.
5. Be specific
Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t be unkind, but get to the point. Wasting time talking about the weather, the kids, or activities only makes it worse.
6. Listen to their response
There’s always the chance that you misunderstood the situation, or got the facts wrong. Plus, you never know the pain others carry. Hear them out and let them respond. They need the opportunity to explain their actions. Listen and resist the urge to interrupt, let them finish. If clarification is needed, ask.
7. Agree on the future
Both of you should agree on the changes that will need to be made. Hopefully, you’ve given them hope that new behavior or new actions will make things right. But don’t forget to outline what it will take to move forward. Make a commitment to how you will respond differently in the future. They should leave the room feeling loved and knowing exactly what they can do to help the particular issue. Make it practical!
8. Finally – release the offense
Don’t hold the mistake over his or her head. Forgiveness matters and your ability to forgive will determine the effectiveness of resolving the difficult conversation.
And Just Remember...
It’s virtually impossible to have deep connection without having difficult conversations once in a while. And you are worth having a deeply connected relationship!
As you learn to navigate honest conversations, you will soon learn that it’s possible to reach a responsible agreement without hurting each other! The trick is to learn responsibility when it comes to the approach and preparation. Responsibility is having the ability to respond properly.
Every relationship will encounter stress. Great relationships don’t mean you don’t encounter problems, it means you grow together through your problems and live mature and free on the other side!
Hear more about this topic on Episode 7 of All About Relationships Podcast with Bob and Audrey.