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Managing Tough Conversations

Throughout February, we’ll be discussing healthy relationships of all kinds, including those with friends, significant others and even coworkers.  No matter what kind of relationship you have with someone, there will come a time when you need to have an uncomfortable conversation. It’s just part of life.

When you approach a tough conversation with care and concern for the other person, it will build your confidence and theirs as well.  It is a sign of maturity to navigate conversations with grace, trust in one another and a desire to reach the best possible outcome.

Use the tips below to help challenging conversations end well for everyone involved.

Be clear with yourself about what you hope to gain from the conversation. Do you want the other person to understand how you’re feeling? Are you struggling with someone’s lack of communication and hoping to improve expectations moving forward? Knowing your desired outcome will allow you to focus the conversation on what is most important.

Focus on what you need, not what the other person has done wrong. It is easy to feel attacked when someone approaches you with a problem. Instead, focus on how you need something that the other person can offer. “I’m feeling like our communication styles aren’t lining up and that is difficult for me. How can we get on the same page?

Attempt to resolve misunderstandings. Quite a few disagreements actually come from an honest misunderstanding. Whether someone miscommunicated their expectations or misread behavior, ask direct questions to clear it up. “I was under the impression that you had committed to this and when you didn’t, I was disappointed. Did I misunderstand you?”

Manage the emotions. It is natural for all parties involved in a tough conversation to feel strong emotions. You might feel uncomfortable, nervous, attacked, angry or just generally upset. While these emotions are valid, it is critical that they aren’t the primary focus. Do your best to keep conversations from turning into personal accusations or causing a misunderstanding. Focus on the behaviors, not the person.

Start and end with your relationship in mind. It is important that we maintain a strong, healthy relationship with those around us – especially in a sisterhood. If we begin the conversation focused on how to best strengthen that relationship, we can navigate it with trust in each other, an assumption that their intentions are good, and respect for our individual circumstances. You can then end your conversation positively, with action items and a stronger relationship.

Tough conversations actually get tougher the more we avoid them. Approach these situations like a problem that can be solved, and you’ll experience rewarding conversations that strengthen your relationships.

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