Managing difficult conversations is tough for most. This is especially true for all the situations in which we have to talk about things that we don’t agree about, things that cause tension or misunderstandings, things that bring a lot of emotions to the surface.
In such situations, we might be tempted to learn how to communicate effectively and how to set clear boundaries before we have built a good, supportive and compassionate relationship with ourselves. That never works and often creates even more misunderstandings, conflicts, or even drama in our relationships.
Clear communication starts with you. Always. If you’re feeling confused and insecure inside how can you create clarity and understanding outside – in your interactions with others?
So, instead of creating a big revolution in the way you communicate with others, focus first on creating a gentle but radical ‘inside revolution’. A Self-Love Revolution.
Managing Difficult Conversations Starts With Learning To Love Yourself First
These are the 3, most essential elements of the foundations you need to build inside before starting to work on your interactions with others:
-Your self-worth. You need to believe that you deserve respect, kindness, and love. You need to feel in your bones that your needs, desires, and dreams are equally important as the needs, desires, and dreams of other people in your life.
-Emotional resilience. You need to be ok with whatever emotions and feelings come up to the surface so that you no longer feel frightened or overpowered by them. Instead, you know how to let them pass like waves through your body and heart and how to regulate your nervous system so that you can bring yourself back to balance (without expecting others to do it for you).
–Self-love – You need to treat yourself with respect, kindness, and compassion. No matter what! You need to understand that taking good care of yourself is essential not only for you to stay well but also for your relationships to thrive and blossom. So… it is non-negotaible!
Remember, we don’t aim at perfection here! The journey to self-love revolution is a lifelong journey. So, be sure to treat the points above as signposts guiding you on the way, not as the final destinations you need to arrive at before you are able to communicate effectively with your loved ones.
Not Everyone Will Be Pleased With Your New Skills In Managing Difficult Conversations
There is one more thing that I want to mention about the impact of your self-love revolution on your relationships with other people in your life.
Every time things considerably change in your inner world, others have to adjust to that.
So, you have changed but other people might have stayed the same. That’s why they might expect you to think and act the same way as you did before. They might feel uncomfortable with the ‘new you’ and the changes you are introducing into your life. Sometimes, they might feel threatened. Sometimes they might feel annoyed. If they do, they will try to do whatever they can to bring the situation back to what it was before. Change is not easy for many of us. Especially if it is out of our control.
That is one of the most crucial and challenging moments in your self-love revolution!
This is also when so many of us get disheartened, regress to the position of the victim, and give up. Or, quite contrary, change their whole life into a war zone! There’s no need for that.
You don’t have to give up and you don’t have to fight. There is a better way. And it’s very simple. All you need to do is to make use of the skills you have just learned. All you need to do is to be your own best friend, practice awareness and compassion. And often some patience as well 🙂
Remember once you overcome this last stumbling block, you’re sorted for life!
Having Difficult Conversations Is Much Easier When You Have a Clear Plan
Here are my top 5 ingredients for bringing more ease into tough, difficult, emotion-provoking conversations:
1. Know What You Want
This seems like stating the obvious but unfortunately, it’s far from it. Quite often we tend to start the conversation without really knowing what our own stance is. We start without a clear idea of what we want to communicate and what our goal is. Instead, we believe we will figure it out as we talk. We wait for the other person’s reaction and … improvise. That’s setting yourself for failure from the start.
Be clear what your point is before you even utter the first word. Be clear what your expectations and goals are. Be clear what matters to you most. And stay your course no matter what the other person’s reaction is.
Make sure you are able to say what you think kindly but clearly, without beating around the bush or making some vague hints and expecting the other person to guess what you mean! They can’t read your mind, right?
So, in 2 simple words: BE PREPARED.
2. Establish Clear Rules In Advance.
For me, there are two things that matter most.
- Timing and undivided attention.
Timing is very important. My mum used to say:‘you don’t talk to your man when he’s hungry. This is equally true for all genders and for plenty of other circumstances apart from hunger – you know what I mean. It’s so worthwhile waiting for the right moment.
When you want to talk to someone about things that really matter, you also need to make sure you are both available to talk with no distractions.
If you are a parent, you might have learned before how to get your child’s attention before you tell them what you expect them to do. Remember? You say ‘look at me, please’, wait until you establish eye contact, and only then start to talk. Well, it’s not much different with adults. You need to have their attention first. And then, keep it throughout the conversation.
- a rule that is a true game-changer! Not an easy one, it took me years to build my confidence enough to be able to be very strict about it, but it was worth all the effort! The ’no- violence rule’. I made it my mission to learn how to talk without blaming and criticizing, not to mention being rude or disrespectful. And I expect to be treated in the same way. If the conversation changes into a disconnected fight, I simply leave. Disrespectful behavior is never justified and it kills the safety and connection in the relationship. Not easy to rebuild it later, so why not avoid it in the first place?
3. Build The Connection.
Talking without feeling connected is as much an impasse as frozen silence. You surely remember situations when there was so much tension between you and the person you were talking to that no matter what was said it caused this tension to grow even stronger. Frustration was escalating, even if you had best intentions at heart.
In situations like this, you just get more and more disconnected and the conversation is heading nowhere nice. When you are disconnected, when the discussion gets too heated or too unproductive, when you’re stuck in the loop of repeating the same old story over and over again, it’s time to try something different.
What you need to do is to re-establish the connection before you continue the conversation. This might require taking a 20min break for each of you to calm down or even parking the conversation for a period of time (mutually agreed upon).
If things didn’t get too far you can do something nice together like going for a walk for example. If not, your skills to self-regulate your emotions will come very handy! (Download my Emotional resilience Checklist)
Remember that every ‘failure’ at managing difficult conversations brings your confidence and your hopes down – so taking a break when you know you are hitting the dead-end is so important.
On the other hand, every little success counts. A few goods, connected conversations will build your confidence and skills up. You will start to believe it is possible to get your point across without creating unnecessary tension, conflict, or even fighting. So, start slow, learn how to build the connection and if possible get some practice with less ‘triggering’ issues first.
4. Listen. Listen. Listen.
When we approach a topic that is not easy, we tend to be so focused on what we want to say that we completely forget that a large part of an effective conversation is about listening rather than speaking.
Listening is not an easy skill. In order to listen well, you need to let go of your assumptions, preconceptions, expectations.
You need to be open to the idea that the other person is experiencing the world in a different way. And what’s most difficult of all, you need to accept that you don’t have the slightest idea what is going on in their head (even if it feels you know exactly what’s going on there).
To be able to listen well, you also need to be aware of your own triggers and automatic reactions and notice when they make you stop listening and start creating negative stories in your own head.
The most ‘advanced’ level of listening is to be able to pay attention to what NEED the other person is expressing, even if they do not put it in words. All our interactions, especially those which are difficult, touch upon our deep needs, wants, and longings. But we are very seldom able to name and express them openly. They are hiding beneath the words and usually the harsher the words the deeper, more pressing the needs behind them. Not all of us are great communicators -we had no classes at school to teach us how to talk effectively. Very often we use language which can be triggering or simply hurtful for others, especially if our emotions start to take over.
But if you can stay centered in your own safety and power, you will be able to hear the deeper message – the intention/need that is hidden beneath the words. And if you respond to this need, instead of to what was said literally – it can be a true game-changer.
5. Take Responsibility For Your Own Emotions & Remember The Other Person’s Emotions Are Not Your Responsibility.
If you’re scared or deeply uncomfortable with managing difficult conversations & how the other person might respond to what you say, you will never be able to express yourself with clarity and confidence.
You will try to beat around the bush. You will walk on eggshells. You will carefully choose your words, often twisting the very core of what you want to say, just to make it more ‘digestible’ for the other person.
Playing small, hiding behind vague and confusing words, apologetic tone of voice, submissive body posture. This is the best route to repeating old, negative patterns of conflict and drama rather than to clear and effective communication.
So bring your energy back to yourself. Your responsibility is to express yourself with respect but it is always their choice how they want to respond. Leave it to them.
Managing Emotional Conversations Is Essential For Your Relationships to Thrive
Put these 5 tips in action and you will have better, less stressed, and more effective conversations with your family, friends, and people at work.
Our relationships are such an essential part of our life. And still… we seldom invest time and energy into learning how to take care of them properly. Time to change that!
If you’re tired of jumping through the hoops of conflict and drama, be sure to join us for the Fall Back In Love With You Free FB Challenge – these 5 days will give you the best start to self-love revolutions and to managing difficult conversations in a much better way!