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Having Hard Conversations

In every relationship, some rain is gonna fall. And some hard conversations need to happen.

Think of it this way: If you do them well, they’ll actually bring you closer together. Really, it can. Read on and find out how.

1) Give yourself time to prepare

Most conversations don’t have to happen at the exact moment when you have a strong feeling. Most feelings are not emergencies. But the fact that you felt strongly in the moment means that it’s a topic worth returning to later. You’ll be a more effective communicator, and you’ll be less likely to try to land any low blows.

You might want to say something like, “I want to talk about this later. I just need to gather my thoughts.” That acknowledges what’s occurred and that it had an emotional impact, and your partner will then be able to consider their feelings as well.

2) Do the preparation

This doesn’t mean that you need to write out a whole script, although maybe that will help you. You need to know what your objective is, and how you can best meet that objective.

I know that might seem strange when there’s a lot of emotional content in the discussion. But that’s why you want to step away and approach it with some degree of impartiality. Thinking in terms of what’s most important to you and staying focused on that instead of meandering will help immeasurably.

A good rule of thumb is to address one matterĀ per conversation. Then you can give it full consideration, without it being diluted. Stacking up all your issues is a good way to ensure that none of them are handled adequately.

3) Find a time that works for both of you

Timing is everything, right? Both of you need to be fully present. We’re all more receptive at some points, so best to try to find those moments.

4) Follow through on the conversation

The worst thing isn’t that the conversation goes poorly; it’s that it never happens at all, and you sweep all your feelings under the rug. Do that for long enough, and your relationship will atrophy.

Think of it this way: If a conversation doesn’t succeed, try, try again. I can assure you that you’ll improve with practice. You’ll regroup, you’ll prepare again, and you’ll take another shot because your relationship is worth it.

Having Hard Conversations

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2017). Having Hard Conversations. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Jun 2017
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