Having Tough Conversations
Turning Your Tough Conversations into Heartfelt Discussions
Confrontation is never easy, especially when you are putting your heart on the line or your identity is being threatened. When you want the other person to listen with deep intention, sometimes that desperate need builds up, and you end up shouting out your needs. Some version of “See me! Hear me! Acknowledge my needs!”
When you come from a place of calm surety, with a plan to address your needs in a way that covers all the points of what you desire to say, you can gain ground. The other side is more receptive to what you are trying to say, which brings them closer to meeting you in the middle—closing the gap between you.
So how do you have tough conversations? To say what desperately needs to be said so that the wheels of change can be set in motion? I have a few tips to guide you toward having more meaningful conversations about tough topics.
Know Your Destination
What is your end goal? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you determine the path you want to take. What is your motivation behind having the tough conversation to begin with? Is it to instigate change, to move toward healing? Know the journey you are on so that you know when you have arrived.
Know Your Boundaries
You may have high expectations that at the end of your heartfelt discussion, the two of you will see eye to eye, join sides, and walk away as trusted friends. In a perfect world, the two of you would never have been at odds in the first place. While you desire a world filled with peace, you must be prepared to be met with resistance no matter how calmly you present your side.
If the situation worsens and temperatures rise, you must stand firm with your boundaries. To do this, you must know exactly what your boundaries are before you even begin having tough conversations.
While you may begin on opposite ends of the spectrum, a sense of honor and respect for one another as human beings should be afforded. If that is lacking, you should not hesitate to walk away. You are never under any circumstances obligated to stay and subject yourself to being mistreated.
But where do you draw the line?
Here are some non-negotiable boundaries for you to consider:
- Hurtful words or phrases
- Pejorative phrases that dehumanize you or anyone
to whom you are an ally.
- Anger that erupts in loud, disruptive tones and threats of physical abuse.
- Past situations brought into the conversation in an attempt to guilt or
- Ignoring your preferred pronouns.
- Offering religious beliefs in passive-aggressive ways (I’ll pray for you, I hope
you’ll return to church, etc.).
You may have other non-negotiables not listed here, know them before having tough conversations and stick by your boundaries.
Know Your Why
Knowing the “why” behind your need to have a tough conversation is important. Often we feel obligated to sit down and have a heartfelt discussion, which is never a winning situation. We are not obligated to make others have a more understanding point of view. We are not obligated to bridge the gap between family and friends we once were close to.
Situations change. Growth happens, and you never have to “hang back” so that you do not leave others behind. Guilt should never be a motivator. You are excused from what you feel are obligations. Instead, your why should be based on your own growth. Self-love. Respect.
Know Your Allies
You may be having a one-on-one conversation, but that does not mean you cannot enlist the help of your friends. Allow your allied friends and family to help set you up for success by asking them for assistance in planning your tough conversation. You can ask them to help role-play or gain tips if they have been in your shoes before.
Know Your Who
You may broach the same conversation topic with different friends and family members, but every conversation could be different. It depends on who you are speaking with, your relationship with that person, their personal beliefs, how they speak, and other guiding factors.
Addressing each person individually will help the tough conversation flow more smoothly and improve your chances of success.
Know Your Where
You may envision your tough conversation taking place somewhere you are very familiar with. A place you usually feel comfortable at, your grandparent’s living room or your family dining room. However, it might serve you better to have the conversation on more neutral ground, where you have equal footing.
Whether the tough conversation you desire to have is with someone at work, a loved one, or another person altogether, it is ok to be nervous. Do not spend too much time getting caught up in an endless loop of what you think they will say and how you think the conversation will go. Just have your plan of action, follow these tips, and allow it to happen organically.
To learn more about these tips, I’ve created a resource guide aptly named, “Having Tough Conversations” you can download that goes into the topics in greater detail and touches on coming out as LGBTQ+.
Numa Soul also provides an inclusive space where you are provided ongoing support from Rev Karla and converse with like-minded people. Join Numa Soul for community and deep conversations on topics that matter most to you.