Uncomfortable Conversations: How to Overcome Awkward Moments
What is hard to talk about depends on the person and their relationship.
Some find it hard to talk about issues such as sexual intimacy or conflict with a spouse, others find it hard to talk about financial worries or career goals. A short list of common difficult topics include: death, money, health, sex, family, past relationships, career, body image, addiction and feelings of betrayal, unfairness, fear, disappointment, inconsideration, rejection, or failure.
It can be beneficial to ask ourself some questions to gain insight on our motivations for having a difficult conversation and clarify our thinking. Before having difficult conversations, it may be useful to journal our thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper to make them tangible and concrete before our very eyes. We cannot evaluate abstract thoughts in our mind about our life or about ourselves. However, we can begin to sort them out when we see them in black and white in front of us.
By answering these questions we are able to make our internalized, unconscious, unacceptable feelings conscious and concrete. This allows us to find relief from our conflicting logical and emotional reactions, which helps us to move forward.
We can begin by using some focusing questions, such as:
“What is the worst part about it?”
“How does that worst part make me feel?”
“When else have I felt this way?”
“Is it better to be right or just have peace?”
“What am I trying achieve?”
“What scares me about this?”
“How will this affect my life in the long term?”
“What would be an ideal outcome?”
“What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?”
There is no one best way to bring up a difficult subject. I suggest inviting the person to talk by scheduling a conversation, rather then pushing them into a discussion. Invitations support cooperation, rather then bullying others into speaking when its convenient only for us. It can help to ask:
“Is this a good time to talk?”
“I want to talk, can we sit down tomorrow after dinner?”
“I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
“I’d like to talk about___________. When is a good time for you?”
When having difficult conversation, we should find a set time to discuss our concerns. The time must be agreed upon by both parties and must be a priority despite any unforeseen events.
When discussing these issues, I recommend turning off all music, televisions sets, computers and cell phones. It’s essential to remove any distractions to emphasize that this conversation is a priority.
Second, come right to the point and use an “I” statement. For example, “I felt hurt when..” or “I’m concerned about ….” or “I’m feeling really… (put an emotion here like sad, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed), and I need your help.”
Third, make a request for what we would like to see happen going forward, such as: ” I’d prefer …(list something specific and do-able here like bring home a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs on the way home).”
Another important point, is to make the request in the positive, rather then the negative. If we want someone to stop shouting, we can for example, suggest: “I’d prefer you talk in a calm voice.” The idea is that we need to let the other person know what we want instead of what they are already doing. If we say stop doing so and so, they may be confused on what else they can do, so they simply continue acting as they always have.
Karmin, A. (2018). Uncomfortable Conversations: How to Overcome Awkward Moments. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2018/01/uncomfortable-conversations-how-to-overcome-awkward-moments/