How to approach tough talks
SPONSORED: No one likes having difficult talks with loved ones. Here are some tips on how to make it easier.

“We’ve got to talk …” Have you been dreading this conversation? How do you tell your family the things they don’t want to hear?

Don’t fall victim to the assumption that because you all share the same genes and a certain amount of history, “normal” families are supposed to get along all the time. Yes, family should stick together through thick and thin, but sometimes there are difficult conversations to be held at times that are not easy.

Ok, so everybody on the planet have a tough talk “to do” list – the list of difficult conversations we really should have, but keep putting off, because we don’t  want to start a fight or simply dread the reaction; o yeah, we’ve all definitely been there! All these feelings – fear, dread, anger, anxiety, frustration – they’re all signs of being a human being … and a passionate one at that!

Truth is, there is an art to conversations, and difficult conversations – whether with friends, family, or spouses – are hard enough without one wrong step turning them into a combat zone.

Here are a few survival tips for difficult conversations:

  • Don’t delay. There is never a perfect time for a difficult conversation, but mutual convenience matters. Literally. Make sure to ask: “Is this a good time?” Never buttonhole someone when they walk through the door or when they’re in a hurry.

  • Stay focused. Don’t bring up ancient history or other problems. Stick to the topic. If it is brought up, say: “Let’s talk about that tomorrow, and try and solve this today.”
  • Give up the need to be right. Remind yourself that it’s all about finding a solution to the problem. Truly listen and embrace the other point of view.

  • Take the emphasis away from getting an apology. Instead put more emphasis on how you can bring more connection into your relationship.

  • Use disarming phrases such as: “What would you say if …?” or “Could it be that …?”

  • Use “I” statements. If you’re pointing the finger (i.e. “You did …”, or “You made me feel …”), you not only put the other person on the defensive, but also position yourself as the victim. Take responsibility for what you may have contributed to the problem.

  • Watch your tone. Make sure that you are not coming from a place of aggression or defensiveness. Be respectful.

  • Refrain from saying; “You are a …” Character bashing is never a good idea. Keep the conversation about behaviour. You can change behaviour but you can’t change who you are.

  • Share the impact. Share the anxiety or the tension you feel about the conversation. This could soften the prickliness and make everything a bit more “human”.

  • Be open and just listen while the other person is talking. Don’t interrupt or make hasty judgements.

  • Control your emotions. Stay calm and diffuse the tension if needed. Have an exit strategy – if the conversation becomes too heated, request time to process your feelings and continue the conversation another time.

  • Try to find something you agree on. Even a little consensus can help you both feel like you’re beginning to contribute to a solution.

  • Come to difficult conversations with solutions.

Relationships can be complicated, but family is everything. Healthy confrontation can improve relationships as long as both parties feel that the relationship is valuable, and that they are valued and respected.

Most importantly, make sure that your kids know that they can always talk to you, and that you would listen. If challenges persist, you might want to see a therapist to help you work through your differences. Good luck!


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