Tips for Tackling Tough Conversations 

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Leadership

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, I think we can all agree that tough conversations are … uncomfortable. That’s why so many of us avoid them at all costs. In fact, research shows that one in four people have been putting off an uncomfortable conversation for at least 6 months. 

The truth is, when we do nothing, we allow the problem to grow and the tension to build. So, here’s your sign: Have the tough conversation. Let’s talk about a few ways to address conflict, share your feelings, and start working toward solutions.  

Start strong. 

A green conversation bubble with three white dots in it.

You’re ready to dive in and initiate a tough conversation—but wait. Where do you even begin? How do you make sure you’re not coming on too strong? How do you avoid completely blindsiding the other person? Use one of these options as a starting point to ease into the conversation naturally: 

  • “Do you have a minute to talk? I’d really like it if we could reach an understanding on ________.” 
  • “I think we have different perspectives on ________. Can we talk through our ideas?” 
  • “I’d love to talk with you about some ideas I’ve had on how we might be able to work together more effectively.” 

Even if you’re super prepared, it still may feel a bit awkward jumping into a conversation you’d rather avoid. Jump in anyway. Be confident. And remember that the beginning is always the hardest part. 

Listen to understand.  

Sure, you’re listening—but are you really LISTENING? In any conversation, we have two options:  

  1. Listen to respond: You hear the other person talking, but instead of paying attention, you’re focused on formulating a response. 
  1. Listen to understand: Otherwise known as “active listening,” this means that you’re making a conscious effort to take in what the person is saying and really digest it. 

You’re the one who initiated this tough conversation, so it’s likely that you’ve got a lot to say. You’ll probably feel tempted to listen just to respond. Fight that urge. There are two perspectives at play here, and both sides deserve to be heard and valued. Read this post for a few tips on how to be a great active listener.

Own up to your faults. 

Two people sit across from each other at a white table with coffee cups in hand.

We’ve all got things we can work on, right? Conflict of any kind is hardly, if ever, one-sided. So, if while having this difficult conversation, you realize you can improve in certain areas, admit it. Reflecting on your own faults isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that this relationship means something to you, and you’re willing to change, improve, and grow for the future. 

Brainstorm solutions.  

You know that moment on a hike when you can just feel that you’re getting close to the top? Maybe you can even see the final peak looming in the distance. That’s the feeling you should get when you’ve reached the point in your conversation when it’s time to come up with solutions. Everyone’s had the opportunity to get their feelings out and now, it’s time to figure out where we go from here.  

So … where do we go from here? Find a solution that benefits all parties. Talk it out, be on the same team, and come up with a plan that everyone can be happy with. 

We all deal with conflict, and we all have to have those tough conversations at some point or another. The key is to solve the issues now, before they become even bigger ones. 

Conflict will undoubtedly arise on your journey to success, but don’t let it stop you from achieving your dreams. Read my post to learn about setting goals and making them happen, no matter what.