Tonight I have to have a very difficult conversation with my son. I am dreading it. I am sitting here thinking about what to say and what he is going to say and how he could hate me by the end of it.
The life coach in me knows that while my concerns are real there are many approaches that I can take that will allow us to have a successful conversation, one we will both walk away from in the best way possible.
Here is my latest…5 Ways to Approach a Difficult Conversation – Even if You Think That it Might End Disastrously.
#1 – Let go of assumptions.
As I sit here thinking about what tonight is going to look like I am visualizing all sorts of reactions from my son around what I am going to say. Some are calm, some are angry, some involve tears.
And they are all that I can think about. More even than the content of the talk. I just don’t know what will happen and it worries me.
But I have to let go of those projected outcomes. I have NO IDEA how he is going to react and to spend even one minute perseverating about what they might be is a complete waste of time.
So I let them go and focus on the other approaches instead.
#2 – Choose a good time and place.
When my kids were little and I had to discuss something difficult with them I always chose to do it in one of two places: in the car or on a walk.
I have found it very effective to have conversations with someone when side by side instead of face to face. I think that perhaps it makes each participant a little less vulnerable and gives them a moment more to react to a statement. The eyes can say so much, sometimes quickly, which can cause the conversation to devolve in some way.
I also always chose a time that was not stressful. Tonight my son is coming over for dog therapy, pizza, TV and trying on some new clothes. His top 4 things in this world. He will be happy and then we will begin. Softly.
#3 – Don’t attack.
Your goal in this situation is to have an effective, difficult conversation. One that lands on its mark and has a satisfactory end result. To do this it’s important not to attack.
My son is struggling with a few issues in his life. I will ask him if he is happy. One a scale of 1-10, perhaps. Doing so will (gradually) get him to open up to me about his life. From there I can ask him probing questions that will lead to us being able to discuss how to get him through those issues.
I will not say “Why are you doing these stupid things over and over?” I can guarantee that the only thing that will do is shut him down. And make him leave.
Not the end goal.
#4 – Be sure to listen.
This is so important. You need to be very careful to listen to what you are hearing back from the person with whom you are talking. Not only could you get some valuable information but, by letting them know that you are paying attention, you will be more likely to get the outcome that you seek.
Try reflective listening. Many people find it difficult but it really works. After they speak say “I hear you saying that….and I get it.” Words that will allow them to feel heard, validated and empathized with. Often, all people want to be is heard and not feeling so makes them angry and makes them shut down or storm off.
Not the end goal.
#5 – Know that everything is going to be all right.
I know this conversation tonight with my son seems like it might be the end of the world but really, no matter what, it’s all going to be okay.
I always tell my clients to consider “what is the worst that can happen?”
For me I know that the worse that could happen would be the death of my child. That I don’t think I could survive. But you know what, I probably could. Regardless, that won’t happen tonight, because of this conversation.
So, yes, a conversation might bring about pain and discomfort and maybe even produce some short, or long, term effects but really, everyone is going to be okay.
As I have mentioned before, pain is a part of the growing process. This conversation will be part of the growing process.
And growing is the end goal.
So there you go. My 5 Ways to Approach a Difficult Conversation.
I am definitely nervous about tonight’s conversation. The topic is a difficult one but the conversation is necessary. Now that I am done worrying about possible outcomes I have my list of things I want to address and am going to do so carefully and with love.
And while there might be some tears and discomfort, I know that, really, everything is going to be okay. We will still love each other and that life will go on.
Looking for more tips about difficult conversations? Contact me and let me help!