Strategies for managing difficult conversations

In relationships it is a fact that at some point you will engage in a difficult conversation with your partner.

Sometimes these go well and, really, good for you. Healthy communication through difficult conversations is a massive achievement. ?

However, it is MORE likely that you will encounter common issues like defensiveness, vulnerability, feeling frustrated, feeling unheard, feeling dismissed, confused at what the issue even is, or just flooded with emotions.

So check out some strategies that can help you to feel more empowered and equipped to handle your next difficult conversation!

difficult conversations

Disclaimer: Some of these may feel mechanical; however when your communication is not productive there may be a need to implement a more structured approach.

INSTEAD OF:

Going down a rabbit hole of disorganized complaints and frustrations.

TRY:

Try sticking to one main point or theme and do not get caught up in too many examples.

INSTEAD OF:

Focusing on the content or details of an argument.

TRY:

Talking about the process. Sometimes the process is a bigger deal than the little examples of content.

Aka HOW YOU ARGUE vs. what you argue about.

INSTEAD OF:

Talking so long you lose your point, your partner, or someone shuts down.

TRY:

Setting a timer and placing a limit on how long the discussion lasts. Create a plan to follow up later if more time is needed.

INSTEAD OF:

Getting overwhelmed and forgetting what you want to talk about.

TRY:

Creating an outline and writing it down before you start the conversation.

INSTEAD OF:

Having the difficult discussion when you’re in the middle of an argument.

TRY:

Waiting until you are in a good place to have the discussion. You and your partner will be in a better frame of mind to work things out.

INSTEAD OF:

Going through the same frustrations during difficult conversations.

TRY:

Creating an agreed upon set of rules for your discussions. For example, X is off limits or no raising your voice, or no pointing, etc.

INSTEAD OF:

Talking out your issues.

TRY:

Writing them down and passing it back and forth over several days. Some people can write what they cannot verbally express.

INSTEAD OF:

One upping, dismissing, or escalating during an argument.

TRY:

The SPEECH approach. Each person says their side and the other responds with a “thank you for letting me know” then you take turns. No back and forth just uninterrupted statements.

INSTEAD OF:

One upping, dismissing, or escalating during an argument.

TRY:

The DEFENSE attorney approach. Take turns. After you explain your side, your partner presents your perspective back to you in the SAME amount of time you took. Then switch.

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