You’re still tapping away at your latest report as the clock strikes midnight. Your friend’s boyfriend’s strayed out of the funny and into red flag territory at cocktails last Friday night. You feel that the conversations that you have with your sister follow a single track – her and her life, with zero time for what’s new with you.
You hear us? Grievances that require a tricky conversation are abundant in our lives. And sure, some stuff isn’t worth booting up a difficult discussion for. But some, the things that are having a true, negative impact on your life, very much is. So, when you decide that an uncomfortable topic needs an airing, how do you approach a chat with the person in question?
‘We’ve made an association between boundaries and conflict in our heads,’ life coach Angelika Alana tells HNP. ‘But I don’t think that’s true. It’s good to explore our boundaries and to cultivate a positive relationship with them. It also deepens our relationships with the people in our lives if we express ourselves.’ How so? ‘When do you feel the most connected to others?’ asks Angelika. ‘Is it when they say that everything’s ‘fine,’ – or is it when they want to celebrate; express a vulnerability or are honest with you in some other way?’
We’re social creatures so, almost without exception, it’s the latter. With that in mind, here’s Angelika’s guide on how to take on difficult conversations – without creating conflict.
1 / Do the inner work first
Before you do anything, decide what your intention is for this conversation. Do you want to be right? Or do you want resolution and harmony? If it’s the former, you need to process your own feelings for a while, until you want the latter. There’s no good in approaching a conversation from this mindset.
2/ Choose your moment
You want to make sure that you approach this interaction in a way that invites connection, rather than disconnection. The first step here is asking the person in question for an ‘appointment’ to talk to them.
Say you’d love to discuss whatever it is, and is now a good time, or is there a time later that might be better? Use your judgement here, of course – if it’s clearly not a great time, leave it for the moment.
3/ Diffuse your language
When you’re actually having the chat, use X, Y, Z sentences. This is a smart strategy that will help you avoid deploying absolute terms that will cause a defensive reaction – stuff like ‘you always,’ or, ‘you never.’ Instead, you formulate a sentence like so. ‘When you do X in situation Y I feel Z.’
In doing this, you focus on specific situations and you don’t attack the person’s character. So: ‘When you don’t ask me how I’m feeling when we go for dinner, I feel down.’ You can also use phrases such as ‘as a result, the story in my head is X,’ – for example, ‘When this happens, the story in my head is that you don’t care.’
Deep breath. Good luck. You’ve totally got this.
by Claudia Canavan & Roisín Dervish-O’Kane, @allupinyourfeelings