Anxiety, fear, worry, hurt… these are the feelings that arise for me when I think about hard conversations. In my marriage, a lot of these conversations have been a result of porn usage by my spouse.
After YEARS of having tough conversations that usually ended in yelling and tears (both by me), I started to look for another way.
Yes, conversations can cover tough topics (like relapse or disclosure), but that doesn’t mean that they have to be dysfunctional. Through my years of reading, learning, and growing I have learned that the safer a person I become – the easier these hard conversations get.
Just like most things in life it takes practice. So here are a few tips I have found to make hard conversations a little bit easier.
1- Know your audience.
Is this conversation spouse to spouse? Spouse to child? Employee to boss? Each type of relationship comes with different expectations.
It is important that in each relationship the heart of the individual is being considered. At the end of the day it is the person’s heart that matters the most.
We will feel heard, respected, and loved if we seek to know and understand the heart of the other individual. That is why this is priority number one in all tough conversations.
2- Seek to understand.
When we come to tough conversations seeking to be heard – it usually ends up bad because we are trying to prove a point or get our agenda accepted. We are looking to get something out of the conversation rather than to give something to the conversation. (I am guilty of this – just ask my hubby.)
By seeking to understand the other person, hearts will remain soft and hard conversations can become a little bit easier. Remember the word “conversation” implies two individuals, both of whom have valid thoughts and feelings.
Simply opening your ears to listen can break down a lot of walls we carry into hard conversations because we are afraid of being hurt.
3- Plan a safe place.
Hard conversations are hard enough, do not make it more difficult by having them in uncomfortable places or at inconvenient times.
If you know you are going to be talking about a sensitive topic, plan beforehand so that your spouse can feel safe to hear your heart. Safe places are usually places that do not have a lot of distractions.
Practically this means: turn the TV off and make sure the kids are in bed or at a sleepover with the grandparents.
4- Know yourself.
You would think this would be an easy one, but it’s not. It takes a lot of emotional intellect to say, “I just do not have the emotional bandwidth right now.”
Be honest with yourself. Consider what you will need after an emotionally taxing conversation. Make space for yourself to care for yourself.
AKA – do some self-care before and/or after hard conversations. Because they are taxing we need to fill back up again. For me, this usually means a hot shower and some journal time.
5- Plan for the long road.
Hard conversations rarely are resolved with just one conversation, so be prepared to not have a “solution.” Most of the time hard topics need several conversations to be resolved.
The reason for this is that everyone processes information differently. Some people can externally process information quickly, while others need time and space to process internally before continuing the conversation.
Regardless of how you process, make sure you are allowing the other person space for how they process. Being a safe person means you create space for other people to be their true selves.
This list is not exhaustive. There are several amazing resources out there to help with having hard conversations. I hope that wherever this article finds you on your journey it encourages you to keep going.
Remember to practice. It may be ugly the first several (hundred) times you try, and that is ok. Just keep practicing. I am.
If a conversation around shame needs to be had, we highly encourage you to check out When Shame Gets Real and download the first chapter for free.