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How to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

Difficult conversations can be both an unfortunate and normal part of life. As much as many of us would like to avoid them, they are necessary. Whether the conversation is taking place with a partner, friend, colleague, or loved one, it can bring up a lot of anxiety for many. Difficult conversations can especially bring up anxiety for those who grew up in homes where it wasn't safe to disagree or engage in conflict. For those of us who had the role of being the "peacemaker" growing up in our families, we often had the burden of maintaining the peace within our homes at the cost of silencing ourselves or not having the space to advocate for our own needs. Or we grew up in families where conflict was swept under the rug. This can certainly follow us into adulthood, where many may shy away from difficult conversations without realizing the parallels with our childhood when it came to conflict.

As uncomfortable as they may be, difficult conversations are a necessary part of life. Even as anxious as you may feel with a looming conversation surrounding a disagreement in the work place or with your partner over something that they did that hurt you, so much growth, healing, connection, understanding, and repair can arise from such conversations. And you may find yourself leaving the conversation feeling proud of advocating for your own needs. If you are someone that struggles with confrontation or difficult conversations, here are some tips that can help you feel better prepared for them:

  1. Reflect and decide on what messages and feelings that are important for you to convey

  2. Make a list of talking points

  3. Lean into any grounding practices that you may have to find your sense of calm (ex: mindful breathing, meditation, guided imagery, etc.)

  4. Give the other person space to explain themself and to express how they feel

  5. Stand firm and tall in your authentic truth

  6. If you start feeling disrespected or that the other person is not committed to understanding you, give yourself permission to exit the conversation

  7. Know that your feelings are valid, even if the other person attempts to invalidate them

  8. Process and unpack the conversation that you had with a trusted person in your support network or a therapist

It is also important to note how important it is to show yourself both compassion and love for engaging in such conversations. Engaging in difficult conversations is how we break intergenerational trauma and find healing within our relationships and ourselves. Such conversations can also serve as a corrective emotional experience in that not all conflict will end badly. You may even find yourself feeling more connected to the other person afterwards.

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