I can’t be the only one who has left hard conversations with a friend, family member, or employer feeling no resolution and often more confused than when it started.
Some people simply chalk it up to the subject matter, saying, “was there really a good way to have that conversation anyway?”
Yes. Yes there is. There is always a good way to have a hard conversation.
I actually plan it out. It’s helped me navigate all sorts of situations. When I share my ‘conversation template’ with my friends before they go into a difficult conversation, they always say it helps them too. So now I’m going to give everyone access to my secret weapon.
The trick is to work backwards; where do you want to end up when the conversation is over? Do you want resolution? Do you want to break up? Do you want to gain a better understanding of this person and their motives? What is the ultimate goal or purpose for this talk?
Now that you have the ultimate goal figured out, how are you going to get there? What are the things you really need the other person to hear? If the answer to that is, “nothing,” that’s fine too. That gives you ample opportunity to just listen.
So now you have the outcome decided, as well as a few bullet points of what you feel like you really need to say. The only thing left is to decide where to start.
Can I be honest?
The beginning doesn’t really matter. It’s probably going to be awkward. You’ll probably stumble into it one way or another without really knowing how you got there.
The key is your commitment to the outcome.
Keep trudging through, however hard or painful, until you make it to the outcome you decided upon previously.
You’ll probably have to compromise. But as long as the outcome you chose in advance has everyone’s best interest at heart, there’s really not much that can go wrong. It’ll still be a hard conversation, but at least you’ll be prepared for it.
Now, go forth and conversate! (yes I know that's not a real word =])
Featured photo in this post by Mackenzie Maroney