The 4 Best Things to Do Before a Difficult Conversation

Why Serious Discussions Deserve Serious Planning

Whether you’ve got something to confess or there is someone’s behavior you’d like to address, having a difficult conversation with someone should be done with lots of care and thought. It may be hard to resist the urge to just blurt out your feelings or opinions when they come to mind, but surprising someone with an impromptu serious discussion is never the way to go for several reasons:

1. They’ll feel attacked.
2. They’ll become angry or defensive.
3. They’ll shut you off and stop listening.
4. Nothing will be resolved.

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The Benefits of Being Prepared

Suppose you wanted to run a marathon. You wouldn’t just roll out of bed, toss on your sneakers and line up at the starting line without being prepared. If you did, you probably wouldn’t make it far, let alone get to the finish line. But if you want to cross the finish line, you know you have to train for months beforehand. You’d watch your diet, get the proper footwear and do all you could to get your mind and body prepared. It’s the same way with important talks and difficult discussions. Preparation is the difference between success and failure.

Whether you want to talk to an employee about their performance or why you might have to let them go, or if you need to sit your spouse down and tell them some deep, dark secret you’ve been hiding—there’s work to be done beforehand. Here are the four best things to do before having a difficult conversation, so that you get the desired results and hopefully resolve the situation.

1. Know Why You’re Initiating the Conversation
Make sure you know what the issue is and why you’re bringing it up. Is it an urgent matter, a new problem or an ongoing problem? What are the results you hope to achieve?

2. Practice Your Delivery
Practice what you say before you say it. How will you start the conversation? Are you considering how they’ll feel during this conversation? Figure out what you can do to be understanding or sympathetic if the topic calls for it. Make sure you are being clear and concise in what you say and keep track of your tone. You want to be caring or straightforward, not harsh or cold if you can. Also pay attention to your body language. Avoid finger pointing or scowling faces. Remain calm, cool and collected.

3. Remember to Listen
Remember that you are having a conversation with someone. That means you both get to speak. Give them time to react and listen to what they have to say without interrupting them. It’s okay to have awkward silences, so don’t feel the need to fill the space up by repeating yourself over and over. Whether you’re confessing something or confronting someone, come from a place of peace.

4. Don’t Anticipate the Outcome
You may think you know the outcome before you even have the conversation, but that assumption could affect your approach. For example, if you assume their guilt, you may come off as punishing or aggressive. There’s more than one outcome to every difficult conversation and the outcome may be one you didn’t consider.

Don’t have your next difficult conversation without considering even one of these four tips. You want to come off as someone who is interested in an amicable outcome. Remember to be open and be prepared. This is the best way to be in the moment.

9 thoughts on “The 4 Best Things to Do Before a Difficult Conversation

  1. Ana Maria Cruz

    ~Thank you., very helpful! Some people act like bulls!!!!!! ●Many times it’s easier 4 me 2
    text people when I have something 2 tell them because they’ll just hangup or get ve
    ry loud & plain not want 2 listen & some people are just plain ungrateful! ●With some people I just keep walking like the Johnny Walker label.

  2. B

    I have a problem letting people in, I been throw so much in my life. And I finally meet someone who just stared to Break down a tint bet of burials bricks and walls! Just I stared to open up I told them about my health problems and obertion I need. I ask if they be able to handle it when and if the time came cause I kn from my past its hard on anyone. He said he could kn he said its time to fall back the next Morring!! That am putting to much pressure on him, I never Sadie about my health from being Cause it was my business. I haven’t been with anyone going on 5 years cause I kn what I want need and looking for, I stared to see that in him.. He treated me the way a women needs to be treated. He been even acting a Julous when it comes to me, and scared I go back with X, cause my X sister in law been coming by trying to get my X and I back. But I had to let go of my X sister I. Law relationship because I didn’t wanted to get in the way of my new relationship as long as he told me to. I can’t seem to understand what I did wrong

    1. LJ

      Dear B. I can’t say that you’ve done anything wrong except that you tackled the hard task of having difficult conversations with not just one, but two people. We cannot help how other people may react to what we say, but just the act of speaking your truth must have lifted a weight off of you. Unfortunately, I think you were too busy being worried about the reaction rather than the uplifting you may have felt from sharing yourself and your feelings. Letting people in is a way of opening your heart chakra, a wonderful experience, but that wasn’t what made people react – they were having their own experience with it. Just let everyone you invite in your life be worthy of your attention, and never regret opening up. You are stronger than you think.

  3. shy

    Wish I read this before I got into this conversation with my wife..I came off worse off even I have a point but I couldn’t articulate it..

    1. LJ

      Dear Shy: If at first you don’t succeed … try again. Think about what you want to say and be clear – and then remember to listen. If it’s that important to you, you’ll try again and when you do, you’ll take the weight of it off of your shoulders. Best of luck.

  4. Quinn ext.5484Psychic Quinn

    Dear LJ,
    Wise, wise words of wisdom. “Remember to listen”, is one of the most important points IMHO that you made.
    You are so smart 🙂

    Buddha Bless,

    1. LJ

      Thanks! That means a lot coming from such a wise women. I read your articles too – I read everyone’s, but I just love your insight. 🙂

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