Life is full of difficult conversations. We encounter so many of these that it is something worth improving on. In fact, this blog post was inspired by someone who asked what the “best way” to get better at having difficult conversations is. I am not sure that there is one best way, but there certainly is something that must be an essential part of the process. So, how do you get better at having difficult conversations?
Focus on yourself
There are always two sides to any interaction — self and other. When faced with a difficult situation, our tendency is often to focus on the other person. What they said and what they did. Much less do we turn the focus on ourselves, when in fact this could be the more fertile area of enquiry.
Start by asking what particularly is difficult for you in these conversations. Do you find certain types of situations/people more emotionally triggering than others? If so, why?
What is going on for you during these conversations? What tends to be your default reaction (e.g. anger, withdrawal, sadness)? Is there an unconscious behaviour pattern at a play?
Noticing your own internal process can empower you with more confidence and clarity in these situations. Remember that if your behaviour is somehow making the conversation difficult, you are already making things better by recognising this!
This kind of self-work is fundamentally about deepening an awareness of yourself. This can be done through both (i) reflection after the fact and (ii) moment-by-moment awareness while actually having difficult conversations. And, the more that you work on improving your awareness of yourself, the more psychological freedom you will create.
Rather than habitually being drawn to a particular action, you can begin to slow time down. And, by doing so, create the opportunity to explore what might support a better discourse, both for yourself and the other.
Having difficult conversations gets easier
The more you practise, the better you will get. You can raise the difficulty level too — like a tight rope walker that raises the height of the rope (only it’s not as dangerous!). Different types of conversations will provide you with opportunities for practice and learning, such that you might even start to not mind having difficult conversations.
Remember that through practice and deeper self-understanding you will find more preparedness and composure within you. Composure that can allow you to effectively navigate even the most difficult conversations. But, all this requires the courage to really look within and work on yourself.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.