o one likes receiving difficult news or having something less than positive brought to their door. And of course, no one enjoys being the bearer of bad news. Whichever position you’re in, it can be a difficult space to be in.
However, life can sometimes implicate difficult conversations needing to be had. It might be a discussion about the concerns you have about your relationship, or it could be one where you’re letting the other person know you want to end the partnership altogether. You might be in a place where you need to inform a loved one of a loss, or that you have discovered something about their relationship they certainly won’t want to hear about.
Whatever it is and whoever it’s going to be with, it can be tough to know how to approach difficult conversations in our lives. Where’s best to start, and how do we go about it to minimize the hurt – and even the conflict – potentially implicated?
The fact you are currently wandering the internet in search of an answer to this quandary tells me that you are already mindful of how the person on your mind is going to feel when you speak to them about whatever it is you need to bring up. This a definite sign that you’re already on the road to being able to support the one you love during what might be an emotionally challenging exchange between you. Hang in there.
Here are 5 key ways that you can ensure you’ve done the right things to ensure the conversation you might have been avoiding goes as well as possible;
1). Create an environment where you can both be heard.
It’s really important that the person you’re broaching a difficult subject with is able to feel heard. Even if they can’t find the right words immediately to respond, the very fact that you have assured them they have space and respect to do so is vital. You can do this by starting your conversation with letting them know you’re there to listen to them, and that if they need to ask questions at any time then they can.
Furthermore, find a space for your conversation that is relaxed, quiet, and neutral to you both. Starting a difficult chat with them in a noisy café isn’t going to work. Instead, a park bench with a view on a quiet Sunday afternoon could be a great place to start. Remember – you’re there to listen as much as you’re there to speak.
2). Create a time-space.
Following on from our first pointer, finding a space of time, as well as space for the person to be heard, is key to a successful discussion. Bringing up a topic that could be hard to talk about isn’t ideal when you’re both about to head out to work, or when you’re in the middle of preparing the kid’s lunchboxes.
Instead, dedicate a time when you know you won’t be interrupted by work, social commitments or familial obligations. Giving time to the conversation signals resect for the other person, and sets a scene of consideration also.
3). Rehearse what you want to say.
Struggling for words? Unsure where to start? Why not take some time alone to run through exactly what it is you want to get across, and why. Even the most confident of speakers can become muddled when emotions are involved. Find a moment to go and have a chat with yourself in your bathroom mirror (out of earshot, of course) or write things out in a notebook.
Make sure you feel comfortable with what you’re saying before you share it. Taking the time to do so could prevent a wide variety of misunderstandings, as well as further unnecessary discomfort for you both.
4). Give them some warning.
No one likes being ambushed. Bringing up a difficult conversation certainly isn’t a time for surprises, any more than the topic itself. Gently letting the person know you need to talk gives the person a head’s up that the conversation is an important one.
Let them know a time and a place for the conversation to happen, but don’t let the person draw you into talking about what it’s all about. Save the tricky stuff for when you have the conversation itself. Disengage from further provocation, and repeat the fact you want to speak properly at the time you have requested. Stick to your guns, for both your sakes.
5). Share some physical reassurance.
From a young age, physical reassurance came in the form of being held. As we grow, we begin to take our own steps independently, keeping balanced by the steadying hand from a loved one. As adults, our needs for a helping hand really haven’t changed.
We all need the warmth of another person to let us know we’re safe, particularly in moments of instability. Before you broach your intended subject matter, take a gentle moment to signal to your loved one that you’re there for them. A simple hug or hand on their back as you walk together could work wonders.
There is no advice anywhere online that can make difficult conversations any easier. But by putting into practice the methods shared in this article, you are vastly improving your chances of the discussion going as well as it can. There are some more tips in this article if you’d like to read more.
Remember – we are all human, we all hurt, and we all have the ability to overcome. Truth isn’t always the most comfortable. But without it, we risk a lack of honesty along with the integrity of our relationships.
You might also be interested to read 5 topics to avoid on a first date – including the one you thought was a winner!
Take a deep breath, and step bravely. You’re as ready as you’ll ever be, I promise.