Difficult topics, whether it’s discussing mental health or breaking bad news, are a part of life. All of us will have to have an uncomfortable conversation with the people we love at some point. These conversations can be very hard, making us feel anxious or stressed. It can be hard to know where to start and how best to proceed. This guide will help you to prepare for those hard conversations with your loved ones.
A difficult conversation can go a lot more smoothly if you prepare yourself in advance. Remain reasonable in your expectations and don’t worry about planning out exactly what you want to say. Instead, ask yourself some questions to get a clear perspective. What is the purpose of the conversation? What is the ideal outcome? How do you feel about the situation? What part of the issue are you responsible for? What assumptions do you have about how the other person will react? Considering these questions helps you to focus on why you’re doing this at all, even though it is hard, and gives you a clear goal for an outcome, whether you think a loved one needs to cut back on alcohol, or should be seeking a heroin addiction treatment center. Before the conversation, practice self-soothing techniques like deep breathing to help you stay calm while the conversation is happening.
Set A Time and Place
It’s hard to focus on more than one thing at once, so try to have this conversation at a good time when neither of you has other distractions. Consider the space you choose too. Choose a quiet space that offers privacy and is free from distractions. You don’t want to be disturbed, or distracted by other family members coming in and out. You also want privacy so you can both talk honestly without fear of being overheard.
Raise The Issue
This can be the toughest part. Try not to worry about staying likable, and instead focus on honesty. Approach the subject with openness and a willingness to work together. Be clear, and use specific examples. Try to avoid blame or using language that sounds accusatory. Avoid terms like ‘always’ and ‘never’, and instead communicate how you feel. For example, instead of saying, “You never do this,” say, “I feel this way when you do that.” This way shows you understand their intention may not be to cause the impact they do but expresses your feelings clearly.
Try To Understand
If you’re going to solve the problem you need respect and resolution. Listen to their response without interrupting. Acknowledge what they’re feeling. You don’t have to agree but should show that you understand.
Own your own role in the conflict, such as acknowledging that you became defensive, or have not as available to listen as you would like. If the conversation starts to drift to other subjects, steer it back. Avoid dragging up every argument you’ve ever had, and instead, stick to the topic you want to address.