WELLBEING BLOG: top tips for tackling stressful conversations

We all have to face difficult conversations, whether at work or at home. In her latest blog, wellbeing expert HARRIETTE LUSCOMBE, from Coaches For Change, explains how to approach these awkward moments in a kind but effective way.

Difficult conversations are in themselves a huge source of stress. But what I find with many of my coaching clients is that the build up, the ruminating, the sense of discomfort and potential anxiety beforehand all add to the challenge. Here’s a few ideas on how to make stressful conversations easier and remove the potential dramas.

  • Have a clear intention behind what you want to get out of the conversation. If you want to vent and let off steam, save that for your support network who aren’t involved in the situation. Give as much clarity around the purpose of the conversation as you can up front so you’re not taking anyone by surprise. And remember that a conversation is two-way, so make sure you both have time and space to speak. In considering what you want to get out of the conversation, it also enables you to review where and when you might be happy to compromise, and what actions you may want to take if the situation can’t be resolved.
  • Assume the very best of the other person. Start from the assumption that the other party to this stressful conversation is trying to do their best. They just might not be aware of your perspective or have other pressures that are affecting how they are acting. Try not to use directive language like “you” and avoid statements like: “You don’t listen to my ideas”. Instead, try to diffuse the language by taking away personal blame, perhaps saying something like: “I don’t feel like my ideas are heard.”
  • Visualise and plan. Think about when and where would be the best time and place for the conversation, whether online or in person. Visualise how you are going to make the points you want to express, how you are going to listen, the tone of your voice, the way you are going to be breathing. If you know where you are having the conversation you can even visualise what you will be wearing and the room you’ll be in. Visualisation is a top technique used by athletes and business leaders to train their brains for success. When you feel confident about how you want the conversation to go, imagine some scenarios where things might not go according to plan, and prepare for those too.
  • Use your strengths. We all have different strengths that we bring to the table, so think specifically about how you can use yours. If your strength is humour, can you use that to diffuse any stress? If you tend to be more analytical, what data can you bring to the table to support your perspective? If you’re naturally gifted at bringing a team of people together, how can you utilise those skills in this scenario?
  • Be truthful and use evidence. Of course, I’m not an advocate of outright lies. But sometimes the little white lies or tactical omissions when you’re trying to be kind can be just as destructive. For example, if you’re completing a disciplinary it might be hard to say, but if the person’s job will be affected if they don’t make changes, you need to make them aware. Similarly, if the conversation isn’t going the way you expected, don’t say “it’s ok” if it isn’t.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash.

Stressful conversations are normally hard because they tap into something that we care deeply about and you owe it to yourself to try to get it resolved. Difficult conversations don’t need to be stressful, and when we can find ways to tackle them with kindness they can often lead to stronger and more effective relationships, where everyone knows where they stand.

If you’d like any specific support with tricky scenarios you may have coming up, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at harriette@coachesforchange.co.uk

Source: Taking the stress out of stressful conversations, by Holly Weeks.

Main image: by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash


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