Do you remember the last really uncomfortable conversation you had or had to have? Where was it? At work? At home? Who did you speak to? How did you feel? Before? During? After? Take a minute to dive into this memory before you keep reading.
As the word already states, these conversations are uncomfortable on many levels. But they are also vital in order to bring change. Sometimes we need to take all the courage we have to speak up, but most of the time we actually feel better after. That is even if the conversation didn’t have the outcome we were hoping for. The simple fact of having it brought up and (hopefully) resolved in some way, will fill us with some contentment.
So how do we go about having an uncomfortable conversation? In the following I will mention three things which helped me hoping they will make a difference for you, too.
1. Define Your Purpose: WHY
The first thing that can be extremely helpful is putting your focus on why you need to have this conversation and what you would like to achieve with it. Define your purpose word for word using as much detail as possible. What you put your focus on is where your energy flows, it will shift your direction. This requires you to know your personal goals in order to move towards them.
The famous Timothy Ferris writes:
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
If you are willing to have an uncomfortable conversation, it shows that you know your goals, you know why you have to have this specific talk with this specific person. It also means that you are not willing to accept the current state of things and that you respect yourself enough to state your opinion and initiate positive change. If you look at it like that, it makes sense that these people generally tend to be more successful in life compared to people who just keep quiet.
2. Take Notes And Believe in Yourself: HOW
Once you know the purpose, you now have to think how you can make this work for you. For me personally, this is the hardest part. I am usually fine with defining my purpose, but then I break down on the couch crying, telling myself that I can’t do this, that it is too hard. I make up reasons such as no-one will believe me, I am not good enough to ask for this or I simply won’t get the words out because I am scared. Needless to say, this doesn’t help anyone. So try to not even let these thoughts in your head (if you can). If you start having them, push them aside and concentrate on these things instead:
Take notes stating what arguments you would like to use during your conversation. What is the main content? What point do you want to get across? If you write them down, your brain will start absorbing these thoughts and even practicing how to start the conversation can help you feel a bit more calm.
Moreover, tell yourself that you are capable of doing this and that you and your opinion are important. You don’t owe anything to anyone and you need to do what makes you happy. Nothing else. Positive self-affirmation is incredibly important for moving forward in life. It will help you to be more self-confident and positive about the whole situation and it will change how you appear to others.
3. Put Your Courage Into Practice: WHEN & WHERE
The third step includes figuring out the practical component. When and where is your conversation going to take place? Consider factors like what time of day may be suitable to talk to a particular person, but also for yourself. Do you need to get it out of the way first thing in the morning? Or do you need some time to emotionally prepare during the day? What location can you choose? Inside? Outside? Do you know what the person likes to make the general atmosphere more positive (e.g. choosing their regular café)?
Of course you are not always able to choose the when and where. If the conversation needs to take place in your coworker’s office when you can get an appointment with him/her, then so be it. But sometimes you are able to influence these things and if you are you should use this to your advantage.
Lastly, make sure you listen to the person you are speaking to, make them feel heard and understood, since this is what you are expecting in return. The three tips may seem simple, but they can help immensely and shift your focus in the right direction when your head is full of chaotic thoughts about what may happen during your uncomfortable conversation.
So focus on your main purpose, be prepared, believe in yourself and pick the best possible time and place for your conversation. Hopefully, it will then be a bit less uncomfortable and a bit more bearable for you. May the outcome be what you hoped for or at least bring you more clarity!