“Keep Calm & Carry On”: Techniques/Reminders For Difficult Conversations

“Keep Calm & Carry On”: Techniques/Reminders For Difficult Conversations

 Difficult conversations are difficult for everyone involved!  Your message can get lost in a mist of hurt feelings, jumping to conclusions, accusing tones, and defensiveness.  I created a “cheat sheet of reminders” for my clients and thought I would share this tool with others.

“Keep Calm & Carry On”: Techniques/Reminders For Difficult Conversations

  • Keep your voice calm and level.  Avoid phrases like, “I am done with you,” “I don’t care,” or hurtful language (including cursing, name-calling, or badmouthing of others.)
  • Try talking about sensitive topics without placing blame, use “I” statements.

When____________ I feel ____________________because___________.

For example:

“When I come home from work and the dirty dishes are still in the sink, I feel overwhelmed and disrespected because now I have more work I have to do before I get to rest and I expect to have help with the household chores from other family members.”

 “When I feel like I am not being listened to, I feel unimportant and frustrated because I feel what I am saying is just as important as whatever else is said.”

**notice the word “you” is never used.

  • When discussing a difficult topic, try to confine the discussion only to than specific topic, rather than bringing in past, future, or additional issues in.

For example:

“When I come home from work and the dirty dishes are still in the sink, I feel overwhelmed and disrespected because now I have more work I have to do before I get to rest and I expect to have help with the household chores from other family members.  I knew you would forget, you always forget- and now I have to do it all myself.  This was never going to work, I knew you didn’t care about helping me, you never think about my feelings- and I see the rooms are not vacuumed either.  You are totally useless. Just like last week when it took you three days to bring the trash cans in.”

Instead try

““When I come home from work and the dirty dishes are still in the sink, I feel overwhelmed and disrespected because now I have more work I have to do before I get to rest and I expect to have help with the household chores from other family members. I felt we had an agreement.  I held up my end of the bargain and I put my faith in your word that you will do the same.  When you are finished with them tonight let’s talk about why they did not get done and try to come up with a plan to avoid this in the future.”

  • Remember that timing, location, and situation matter.  People cannot have meaningful conversations when they are distracted, in crisis, or feel attacked or ambushed.

For example: As soon as you hear someone walk through the door after work, you start yelling from another room about the things they forgot to do.

Instead try

Wait for the person to settle in.  Give them time to get oriented.  Greet them nicely and then either let them know that when they are able, you would like to talk or ask if they could sit down with you for a few minutes.

  • Choose you battles.  Harping on every action and reaction only creates more of a divide.
  • Breathe. You have to remember to breathe.

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