Does Starting a Tough Conversation Give You Hives?


The topic I get asked about most is Tough Conversations: Ways to start them, how to not screw them up, and certainly, how to have less of them.
Tough conversations are tough for one simple reason: we're human! 

We have feelings and emotions and perspectives and beliefs that get all jumbled up when our defenses rise and our mouths open. And, exactly what ignites a regular conversation into a tough one is the escalation of emotions when something's said that triggers our defense mode. 


Listen, as a manager (or parent or spouse or friend), it's imperative that you get better at communicating. And that doesn't just mean the sweet, easy conversations - it's all the tough, tangled ones too. So to be a master communicator, someone really skilled in delivering both positive and potentially negative feedback, you've got to hone your skills when things get tricky. 


Trust me, I have about 1,000+ tips I can share about mastering the art of tough conversations, but this single one will be most helpful no matter if you are avoiding a talk with your husband, your boss, your sister, your best friend, whomever. 

Ready? Here it is. One simple, impactful tip for mastering a tough conversation...


Yes, prepare. I told you - simple. My guess is that, currently, when you need to have a tough conversation, you find the person, fire up your story, and dive right in. Am I right?

Preparing is the secret sauce that can help put your mind at great ease when you've got a conversation you are dreading to have. 

I won't get into all the science of your brain's fight or flight mechanics, suffice to say when you prepare your rational brain ahead of time, it arms you with clearer thoughts and words when the conversation starts to get stressful (and it will!).


This part is equally easy. Take 2 minutes to think through the following three questions:
1. What exactly is the problem at hand?
2. What is the impact this problem is having?
3. What is the best possible outcome you'd like to see?

That's it. Think these through and get your thoughts in order. You may find out that you don't fully know what the problem is; or that you aren't clear on exactly what kind of impact it's having; or even, that you haven't really come up with what you'd like to see as the solution. 

By preparing, you've done due diligence to outline what it is you want to say. Oftentimes, we start a conversation on an uncomfortable topic and get half-way through and realize the talk is winding all over the place, getting confusing and potentially heated, and is not solving what it was intended to solve!

Now, you may always dread the tough conversations that come up in your life, both personally and professionally. But by taking a minute or two ahead of time to prepare, you'll find that tough becomes a tiny less tough. 

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