Reading “welcome” and “tough conversation” in the same heading reminds me of that kid game “one of these things is not like the other” (Do you remember the one?). Fun when we were a kid, but tough conversations, not so much. For most of us, no laughing matter. I would rather have a root canal. Or visit our most snarky uncle for a week. Stop brushing our teeth for a month (coming full circle back to the root canal).
But here’s the thing. Just like the occasional root canal (clearly, this post was sponsored by Dentists of Canada), tough conversations, at some point, are unavoidable.
The problem is just that. So many of us wait and wait and wait some more until it reaches a pain threshold that we can no longer tolerate. And then we’re into some costly relationship dental work. Ick.
Your Tough Conversations Check-Up
Tough conversations often cause us to lose sleep, productivity and sometimes even relationships. The symptoms are there, but we tell ourselves it’s better to avoid them. To see if it gets better on its own. To skirt along the edges of an important relationship or team issue just enough so that it’s being minded (as my British mother says) but not necessarily fixed. There is a bit of polishing. But no real check-up.
What if the prognosis is bad?
We can jump ahead, that it is going to be baaaadddddd. Tough relationship territory is part of the human experience. It isn’t necessarily the fun part; however, it’s normal.
Is there anyone you have a relationship with that matters, where you’ve never had disagreements, debates or dilemmas to wrestle with? As Brene Brown says, “connection is the energy that exists when people feel seen, heard and valued.” What if inviting someone to have a difficult conversation or accepting the offer for a check-up with someone was considered a connector versus a disconnector in your relationship?
I’m guessing you haven’t gotten to this point in the article and just jumped up from your chair, “eureka! I am convinced! I’m off to have that difficult conversation now!” Getting getting into the weeds of the tough stuff with folks. But hear me when I say that the resentment builds up like scales on a bathtub if you don’t. (Note to self: scrub the bathtub this weekend).
Preparation is Key
As they say, forewarned is forearmed, yet in my 20+ years in adult education, organizational development and coaching experience, what I consistently find is that we go into a conversation without a solid plan, doubting we can handle it, and with little hope that it will turn out okay. And when we’ve oblivious to one coming, we can find ourselves in a reactionary mode, which, let’s face it, usually doesn’t end well. It only makes it less likely to initiate tough conversations in the future.
No wonder you don’t want to have one! Who wants to write an exam without having cracked the textbook!
Here are my best tips, and we’ve provided some links to additional articles to dig further into each one:
1. See negativity as a poorly worded request
If you believe the person’s negativity, contradiction or disagreement is personal, and you will react like it is. Maybe that individuals’ greatness is just really well hidden. Maybe they’re not resourceful enough in that moment or have the right way to phrase it so that it’s easy to hear, let alone process. Believing the person has greatness allows you to focus on that first, which turns down the “heat” of the emotions that can get triggered.
2. Expect strain when times are strained
As you will see in this video about negativity, often tough conversations arrive out of very understandable struggle. the trick here is to empathize first, understand and share the feelings of another, which allows us to reduce the emotional temperature and truly see the person. If we can see them as human with normal human struggles, we can meet them in that shared humanity.
3.Write down what you need to get across
You don’t have to create a script; however, it’s key to know what you want to get across in a conversation. What is important to you? Why? What are the facts?
I’ll share some practical advice about getting ready well in advance of any conversation and prep for any conversation you have to have in the future. When we let ourselves simmer in the injustice, the audacity, the inappropriateness, the “how-dare-you”, we get stuck in the past. What is possible, in the future? What do you want in the future (for yourself, for him, her or they), for others impacted by your relationship?
Hey, I can get on my “high horse” (again, British expression courtesy of my mom); however, I cannot recall a single time in my 44 years where this has served me well. Short-term gain (like that first bit of chocolate cake) with deep regret afterward (like the last bit of devouring the entire cake.) Want to avoid a root canal later? Let’s get on top of it.
And if you need even more practical tools and strategies that walk you through step-by-step, we’ve got you. Our super reasonably priced microlearning course makes it accessible for anyone to have the tools to set up these tough conversations right from the start for personal and professional success.
Here’s to warding off the relationship dental work together!
Here’s a recap of the links above:
- How to Deal With Emotions at Work and Beyond
- How Failure Can Build Stronger Relationships
- The Genuine Human Connection – Authentic Meaningful Conversations
- Dealing with Negativity: 3 Strategies that Work (No Matter How Toxic or Tense the Situation)
- Navigating Tough Conversations – Microlearning Course