Why are difficult conversations so dang difficult?!

Colorful graphic of talking heads and speech balloonsThose conversations.

The ones that make us anxious, frustrated, worried.

The ones we postpone and avoid.

Whether it’s an ongoing disagreement with your partner, an employee who keeps making the same mistakes, a kid who persistently “forgets” to take out the trash, an aging parent, or your neighbor with the barking dog – whatever it is, there are some conversations we know we need to have, but … oy.

Why are they so difficult?

Two reasons.

Reason One: it matters

The situation is important. The outcome matters. We’re concerned we might not achieve that outcome.

Reason Two: vulnerability

Something about the issue touches secret places inside you – something that (see Reason One) is deeply important to you, or perhaps something you’re ashamed of or feel guilty about. Or you might feel that conflict is unsafe, or want everyone to like and approve of you. And vulnerability is challenging.

Bonus reason: you’re tired

Sometimes it feels like we’ve had the same blasted conversation too many times. We’ve repeated ourselves ad nauseum about why it’s important, but nothing changes. Why, we wonder, should we bother to go around this loop yet again?

What to do

Either the issue matters, or it doesn’t.

If it doesn’t, then let it go. Really let it go. If you can’t let it go, then it matters to you. Whether you think it “should” or not is irrelevant; it does.

And if it matters, eventually you’ll need to address it, or suffer the consequences: resentment, frustration, exhaustion, diminished self-worth, anger, distance … you get the picture.

Know what you want. Write it down. Seriously. You need that level of clarity.

Initiate the conversation when everyone is calm, not when the issue is front and center. For instance, don’t explain yet again to your kid that Tuesday is trash day and responsibility is a virtue, when it’s Tuesday and the trash truck has been and gone, leaving your wastebaskets overflowing. Wait till the weekend when things are going well.

Identify next steps, and make sure you both agree on what will happen, and what to do if it doesn’t happen. You may or may not get what you want, but at least you can take action toward something better.

There are many tools and options for negotiating these types of conversations – too many to list here. Stay tuned: I’ll be posting more under the topic of “negotiation.” You can click here to sign up to get these posts via email.  Or click here to schedule time to talk with me about your specific challenge.