John and Cindy frequently argued about how to handle their finances. John bought the latest electronic gadgets. Cindy clipped coupons and shopped second hand stores. As retirement loomed, Cindy’s anxiety about their financial future grew. Every time she tried to talk with John about saving more money however, he became defensive and shut down.
Many people don’t know how to initiate a difficult conversation with someone. Some may need to confront a wayward child, broach a friend’s dilemma, discuss a difficult family issue or address a co-worker’s harmful habit. When problems surface, instead of talking together to resolve them, individuals tend to clam up, blow up or eventually give up.
Here are some steps you can take to make productive conversation with someone more likely:
Pray. Ask God for courage to speak up, wisdom to know what to say and when, and humility so that you will speak the truth, but with grace and love.
Prepare. Hard words need not be harsh words. This is too important a conversation to leave to chance. Take the time to write out what you want to say and rework it until it says exactly what you want it to say.
Practice. Rehearse out loud what you’ve prepared. Listening to yourself say what you want to say over and over again will help your emotions calm down and better prepare you to speak calmly when the time is right. Your words will be better received if you are not overly emotional.
Plan. Don’t initiate a difficult conversation when someone is tired, hungry or distracted with other things. After all your prayer, preparation and practice, ask for a time to be set aside to talk where you can ensure the best chance of being heard.
Don’t forget a conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. When you’re finished, respectfully listen to what the other person has to say back. Extend the benefit of the doubt and when you don’t understand ask questions to clarify.
To learn more about how to handle relationship difficulties, see Leslie’s books How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It! Stopping It! Surviving It! Or visit Leslie’s website at www.leslievernick.com