One of the topics that has been coming up often in my coaching lately has been how to have difficult conversations- with a spouse, an ex-spouse, a child, etc. Here are some tips for communication in these situations:
1. Choose your timing.
Just because something feels urgent to you doesn’t mean that it is. While there might not be a best time, there is frequently a better time to have a conversation that is well received. I know in our house, first thing in the morning is not a great time to be heard by my children or spouse but early evening is. If you have the ability to reach out and set a time together, that’s an ideal way to respect one another’s time and be ready for conversation.
2. Pay attention to what doesn’t work
Tried early morning and it didn’t work? Take note and make a change next time. Didn’t give a heads up and the other person would have liked it? Great feedback for next time.
3. Adjust your thoughts before the conversation.
Know what it is you are trying to say. Put it down on paper and decide what you think about the situation before the conversation. What is your goal for the conversation? Always come back to that goal and what it is you want to communicate so that emotions don’t override your points. Seek first to understand yourself in order to have your own clarity.
4. Check yourself throughout the conversation
Are you communicating what it is you intended? Look back at your notes if needed. What are you feeling?
5. Remember: Disagreement does not mean a lack of love
Disagreement means nothing more than differing opinions. It does not mean the person does not love or respect you. Just as you still love them, they are experiencing the same.
6. Listen for the other person’s words
Not just the words you think you hear, but the exact language. Clarify if you need. Our brains love to twist and turn what another person is saying in a difficult conversation but we need to be clear on what is said. Ask questions or for repetition if you need. Many of us have the habit of hearing what we want to hear or think the person is going to say rather than their actual words.
7. Check in often
Do you need a break? Does the other person need a break? Do you need to clarify something? Do you need to check your anger, disappointment, etc? Check in with your body and see what it’s feeling.
Keep in mind that our thoughts create our feelings which create our actions, therefore this conversation is a result of your own thoughts. They are your own. Seeking to understand means hearing those of another and processing both sides.
8. And lastly, know when to engage and when to ignore something
Not everything deserves our attention. Particularly with our children, it’s important to choose our battles as well as our conversations.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are sitting at your desk working when your child comes and asks you to go on hormones. Not a good time for you. Rather than stopping and having the conversation with frustration, choose a time together, one that allows for you both to be in a space of being able to hear the other.
Next, give yourself time to collect your thoughts and do the work you need to do to be ready for the conversation. Seek education as well as the support of a therapist or coach if you need help clarifying your thoughts. Write them down. Want to ensure you convey love and acceptance? Write that down too.
Listen for your child’s words. Take notes if you need. Hear their exact language. You don’t have to respond immediately. “Let me think about this and get back to you,” is perfect. Just be sure to follow through.
Check yourself throughout the conversation. How are you feeling? Are you listening with an open heart or do you need a break?
As Glennon Melton says, we can do hard things. And you can do hard conversations and do them well. If you need a coach to help you prepare them, I can help. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.