5 Tips to Make Tough Conversations EasierBy Rachel Wells
According to a recent poll, the top reason for conflict and eventual divorce in marriage is communication -- or the lack of it. But marriage isn’t the only place poor communication can negatively impact our lives. Other relationships like the ones you have with your friends, family, colleagues/supervisors, and healthcare providers rely on strong communication. Knowing how to communicate when things are going well and poorly will help decrease stress and increase confidence. We spoke with two experts—Amie R. Newins, Ph.D. an Assistant Professor in Psychology at UCF, and Paula Durlofsky, Ph.D., a Pennsylvania- based clinical psychologist—on how to handle difficult conversations in different areas of life.
Before jumping into a potentially difficult conversation, Dr. Newins suggests performing a mental walk through. “If you are sharing information likely to be upsetting to your partner (e.g., admitting to a mistake), try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes before having the conversation. Know what an acceptable level of emotional reaction will look like, and prepare yourself for that. Be prepared to offer solutions while being open to incorporating your partner’s feedback into a solution. Finally, if necessary based on your history with your partner, have a plan in place in advance for what you will do if emotions (yours or your partner’s) become too high.”
In confronting challenges within a friendship, Dr. Newins recommends practicing empathy by taking a walk in their shoes. “If you are asking a friend to change their behavior (e.g., because they have hurt your feelings), think about how you would want your friend to talk to you if the roles were reversed. Offer alternative things your friend could do instead (e.g., if a friend said something that hurt your feelings, what could they have said instead?)” By offering your friend alternate suggestions, you’re showing that you’re committed to finding a solution together.
“If you are sharing sensitive information with your family, think about what you are hoping to get out of the conversation,” says Dr. Newins. Whether you’re sharing information about a mental health problem or asking for support after a recent medical diagnosis, consider what you want and need from your family. Whatever that is—verbal support, help with groceries, check-in coffee date