There are times in life that call for having difficult conversations. It can feel crippling as your body and nervous system fills with fear. Difficult conversations are those times when you know you should talk to someone, but you are struggling to do it. Maybe you’ve tried in the past, and it went badly. Or perhaps you fear that talking will only make the situation worse.
Still, you feel stuck, and a part of you’d like to free up that mental energy for more useful purposes, like enjoying your life.
Many of us avoid conflict at any cost, and the results can be devastating to ourselves and our relationships. Continually trying to diffuse conflict can lead to dysfunction and lack of creativity.
Today I’m going to share a few questions to ask yourself before a problematic conversation this will help you stop avoiding them and find the courage to start constructively confronting people, with skill and empathy.
Conflict + resolution= intimacy
As you prepare to approach conflict or a difficult conversation remember to use vulnerability and curiosity as your guiding forces.
Vulnerability includes expressing your needs, ideas, and feelings openly.
Curiosity includes gathering information without judgment and allows you to explore the topic at hand from different perspectives.
Before going into the conversation, ask yourself some questions:
- What is your purpose for having the conversation? What would be an ideal outcome?
Watch for hidden purposes. You may think you have great intentions, like educating someone or increasing connection, only to notice that your language is excessively critical or condescending. Some of us want to be supportive and end up punishing others.. Work on being honest with yourself and your intentions so that you enter the conversation with a supportive purpose.
2. Notice and be mindful of what assumptions are you making about this person’s intentions? Do you feel intimidated, belittled, disrespected, or marginalized, but be cautious about assuming that this was the speaker’s intention? Impact does not necessarily equal intent.
3. What is being triggered in me? What is my “backstory,” and what inside of you and your experience is being unleashed? You may still have the conversation, but you’ll go into it knowing that some of the heightened emotional states have to do with you.
4. What’s your attitude entering the conversation? Are you joining this conversation from a place of love?
5. What are the other person’s needs? Curiosity?
6. What are your needs and fears?
7. How have you contributed to the problem? How has the other person?
The majority of the work in any conflict conversation is work you do on yourself.
You are responsible for how you respond no matter what the other person says or does.
Breathe, center, and be clear. Pay attention to your tone and us I statements instead of you statements. Your power lays in being centered and true.