The Art of Awkward: How to Have Hard Conversations – Let’s face it, having a difficult talk is never a walk in the park. Even the bravest of us feel awkward and uncomfortable when discussing a sensitive topic with someone we care about. So let’s own the awkwardness and create a worthwhile framework for healthy relationships in every area.
It doesn’t matter how many tutorial videos you’ve watched, how much training you’ve received, or how many times you’ve had these conversations before. Bringing up a subject that makes you feel vulnerable is uncomfortable.
What do I mean?
“Hey, can we talk…” or “We need to talk…” is a phrase that can strike FEAR in the hearts of even the most stalwart of us. Followed just as quickly by the “Do you have a minute to chat…?” question is another that brings on those heart-pounding, instantly sweaty palms and internal fireworks.
And what if you’re the one who needs to bring it up?
It takes so much mental spinning to try and figure it out!
I can’t guarantee tough conversations will never feel awkward again, but I CAN provide you with a way to ground yourself before diving into them. With practice, it becomes easier to handle them. I won’t say it’s easy, but it definitely gets easier over time.
Communication is key!
Maybe you’ve heard this phrase before, but it might slip your mind when faced with having a difficult conversation. Whether it’s breaking up with someone, giving constructive criticism, or asking for a raise having tough conversations is an inevitable part of life. Including the boundaries conversation, the one where we need to discuss something that isn’t working.
Here are some of my GEMS from my coaching practice. Openers and guidelines to START those challenging talks (the toughest part of the tough conversation) right away.
Setting up the scene: let’s say you’re upset with a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a romantic partner, a boss, or really anyone. OR even more concerning, you might be worried that someone else is upset with you.
Before you bring it up:
1. Take time to gather your thoughts and emotions.
2. Write down what you want to say and practice saying it in your head (or out loud).
3. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s not working? Or if you think someone’s upset at you, what made you feel that way?
- What would I like to be different?
- What am I feeling/thinking that I’d like to share?
YOUR LEAD IN’S: One of my favorite ways to open up this talk is to start with curiosity.
Here are some ideas:
- “Hey, I wanted to check in … is now a good time?”
- “I noticed something lately. Can we talk about it? Does now work?”
- “How are you doing? I want to double-check on something…”
- “How’s it going? Are you doing OK?”
- “I’ve been thinking about something and wanted to run it by you. Is now a good time?”
- My ALL TIME FAVORITE if I sense unease or fear someone else is upset …. “Hey, are we OK? I’m just curious cuz I wasn’t sure.”
Then wait for them to answer. It might just all be in your head!
I still have to remind myself that “everything can be resolved through communication.” All. The. Time. Especially when I get stuck in my head about a potential conflict. One that always lives bigger in my head than it does IRL.
When there’s a big ball of feelings weighing on you, it’s hard to articulate what you’re thinking and feeling into something more than, “Uhhhggghhh umm…” and staring at the other person. Or overthinking all the ways the conversation COULD go, MIGHT go, and everything you can say in response.
As much as we would like to avoid these talks (raise your hand if you’d rather go to the dentist than have a tough conversation!), the truth is communication is a crucial element in any healthy and functional relationship.
Why We Avoid the Tough Stuff:
If communication is so important, especially when it comes to hard conversations, why aren’t we talking? We’re nervous and uncomfortable; we think it might go away if we ignore it, OR it’ll solve itself.
- We don’t know WHAT to say, so we don’t say anything (and then maybe explode when it gets past the point of no return).
- We don’t want to cause a conflict or deal with drama.
- We HATE feeling awkward!
The REAL Story:
When we bottle up our feelings, resentment can fester and create an elephant in the room that nobody wants to address. We have more static and imaginary negative scenarios in our heads that drain our valuable energy. The awkwardness gets WORSE, not better! This can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and a breakdown of trust in the relationship.
Let’s be real; avoiding hard conversations is just delaying the inevitable. The longer we wait, the harder it becomes, and the more damage is done.
On the other hand, when we can communicate openly and honestly, we build trust and have stronger relationships.
But here’s the thing, having a tough conversation doesn’t mean being confrontational or aggressive. In fact, the opposite is true.
The key to successful communication is being calm, clear, and respectful. If you’d like more one on one guidance to create a framework for yourself, please feel free to reach out! You got this!
Connect with Theresa: https://theresabyrne.taplink.ws
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