C Having That Difficult By Donna Flynn is the President and CEO of SkillsMastery Group, Inc.

Difficult conversations show up at work, at home and everywhere in between. We have a myriad of excuses on why we don’t have them: I don’t have time, I don’t think it will change anything, they aren’t willing to hear, and the list goes on and on…… I want to give you some tips and tools to have these conversations with less stress and better outcomes. First, let’s look at why conversations are difficult. For many of us we believe it is that the

person we’re talking to is just difficult. Or is it possible that I could be contributing to the difficulty? It can be tricky to determine. Let’s peel back the onion to see what’s really going on.

Mirror, mirror on the wall……

Who is the most difficult of all? Me?—not possible! Let’s look through this lens for a moment. When it comes to a difficult conversation, the conversation is difficult for ME—even if I am telling myself it is difficult because of the other person. How do I know? My body and behavior give me clues:

1. My energy: What is happening physically, emotionally and energetically for me around this conversation? Am I having physical reactions when I think about having the conversation (i.e. change in heartrate, anxiety or uncomfortable feeling in my ‘gut’. Do I stress myself out predicting how the other person will react? Do I assume I know how they are going to feel and respond to the conversation?

2. My behavior: Do I spend my time strategizing about the conversation, talking to others instead of talking directly to the person I should be talking to, or avoiding the person altogether? (the direct left turn when I see them in the hallway). Do I rationalize or pretend the issue or person doesn’t bother me? (also referred to as shoving it under the carpet).

These feelings and behaviors are all clues to myself that the conversation I want to have is difficult for ME. Now it’s time to get a handle on why.

The Big Bad Wolf

Remember the big, bad wolf who was disguised as the old grandma? The big bad wolf here has been disguising himself as another person too—meet FEAR. When a conversation is difficult, it is difficult because of how I am anticipating it will go. I have a prediction, or maybe a past experience of interacting with this person so I have a story about how they will respond to information, how they might react, whether or not they will like me after I am truthful with them. The sooner I get clear on what I’m really afraid of, the sooner I’m able to set those fears aside. The power in that is simple: it impacts how I show up. When I am conscious of my fear, it loses its power. Alternatively, when I am unconscious of it, it is visible to others in my energy, how I act and what I say, which includes my unconscious body language.

Difficult conversations don’t ‘have’ to be difficult—it is our choice, whether conscious or not. Stop blaming others for being difficult or making conversations difficult. Show up the way you want and get the result you want.


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