How to start a tough conversation

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How to start a tough conversation
8 Min Read

Initiating a tough conversation may be difficult...

Human beings have a fear of rejection almost hardwired into them. Maybe that’s why, then, when faced with a difficult or awkward conversation, most of us avoid it however way we can.

But ignoring a problem or a tough conversation benefits no one.

Maybe it’s a sensitive topic, maybe it’s criticism towards someone else, maybe it’s a correction on something you’ve been offended by. Whatever that tough talk might be, you can probably think of a million reasons to just put it off or sweep it under the rug.

However, there is no room for growth if we simply ignore the subject. Not only that, but not speaking in our authentic form can eventually lead us to feel bitterness and resentment towards the other person (or people).

Even the most personable and conversation-savvy people can shake with fear over the idea of a confrontation. What happens if it doesn’t go well? If it damages the relationship? What then? Rejection is a huge fear dating back to our caveman psyche– to be rejected meant social isolation in the best case and death in the worst case.

If you never learn to discuss those difficult topics, though, you’ll never be able to fully express yourself. Instead of focusing on the fear of confrontation, focus on the desire for clarification [x].

To move forward with a healthy relationship, you need to be able to speak your mind and gain clarity of the situation. Both parties can come together to learn from each other and thus become better people.

So, how can you best prepare to have a tough conversation?

What is your purpose for this conversation?

What do you hope to accomplish for an outcome?

What assumptions are you making about the other person? (things controlled by your emotions, and not based on fact)

What (if any) parts of yourself are being triggered? Is there anything from your past you are unknowingly bringing to the table during this conflict?

How is your attitude when facing conflict? Are you already expecting the outcome to be awful? Try changing the view you have of it.

Who is the other person? What do you know about them? What are their own fears?

What are your needs and fears? What boundaries do you need to implement to stay safe?

What roles does each of you play in the conflict/conversation?

How is your emotional state? If you’re being ruled by your emotions, they may get the better of you. It’s important to approach the subject with a calm state of mind and from a place of honesty and openness.

During the conversation, it’s important to remember that this is another human being with their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Remember that there is no one right and wrong here, and that it’s an opportunity to learn and grow with each other. Always set your own boundaries, and never feel bad for walking away from a conversation if you are unsafe, if tensions are growing, if it’s straying away from its original course, or you both just need a break. You can always revisit at a later time when you’ve both calmed down.

This is also best done in person.

So much can be missed through an e-mail or a text that it could leave both parties at an even bigger disadvantage. Plus, taking the time to really talk to someone face-to-face shows that extra level of compassion and commitment that automatically puts you in a better position. It’s much more authentic!

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to begin (because let’s be honest, starting is often the hardest part!) the ZForm can help with an easy to fill-in-the-blank form. There are different boxes you’re able to check (here are some examples) based on what kind of conversation you need to have– was there a misunderstanding? A conflict? Does it require talking, discussing, do you need to reveal something new? Then, below, is a section to briefly explain what is going on. It doesn’t have to go into too much depth if you don’t want, but it begins the conversation within agreed parameters and in a neutral way.

Once you give it to the other person, they can simply agree (or not! This is a consensual form, of course) and it can continue, or be put on the back burner for another time. Both parties sign and can approach the topic from a place of understanding and the mutual desire for resolution. From there, if extra boundaries need to be set or lists made you can do so. It simply gives a jumping-off point to a situation that may be difficult to begin.

It opens the door and allows you to set a safe space for the conversation to happen. No one is blindsided by the initiation, and both parties have ample time to get their thoughts and feelings in order before it begins. Remember as well, that people may not be ready to talk about it. Respecting that boundary is just as important as initiating the conversation in the first place.

Once the other person consents to the conversation, then you can get down to the nitty-gritty…

Get your Z Form now!