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March 8, 2022

Having Difficult Conversations

Adapted by WGU from WellConnect

Sometimes in life it’s necessary to have difficult conversations— at home, school, work, with friends, roommates or in your relationships. Though it’s a natural part of life, it can be tricky to collect your thoughts, say what you really mean to say and have a productive conversation.

Below are some tips to help you have effective conversations with others, even when the topic is complicated, heavy, or just all-around difficult.

Tips for Effective Conversations

  • If you know the conversation is coming, spend some time preparing yourself for it. You don’t need to write every word you plan to say but spend time brainstorming your main points. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish from the conversation.
  • Try not to label the conversation as “difficult” in your mind, or you might cause yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety. Instead, focus on how you’ll feel after the conversation is over. You’ll likely feel relieved and glad that you found the courage to have it.
  • Don’t assume you know how the other person feels or what they are going to say. They have their own perspectives and emotions entirely different from yours.
  • When possible, try to have the conversation in person. Although so much of our communication is done electronically or on the phone, many nonverbal cues get lost, such as body language, tone and facial expressions. This can lead to misinterpretations and misunderstandings.
  • In the moment, try to stay calm, focused and don’t forget to breathe. If you are nervous, taking deep breaths beforehand can help to calm your nerves.
Having Difficult Conversations
  • Stay open to how the conversation naturally evolves based on the other person’s thoughts and how they respond to yours.
  • Try to be an active listener during the conversation and really consider what the other person is saying. This will facilitate a more productive conversation and encourage the other person to actively listen to you as well.
  • Be direct in a tactful way. Don’t expect others to read your mind. They won’t know how you feel unless you tell them.
  • If necessary, take a break from the conversation and regroup later. This will give both parties time to calm down, reflect, and consider the best approach.

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