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May 152017

Entering a difficult conversation is as tricky as being out on the ocean on a sailboat in a thunderstorm. I have done both and avoided both when I could. The unexpected wind changes would make my boat rock and each lightning bolt could send a shock of electricity through the boat that would make my hair stand up straight. That is exactly how it felt for a long time when I had to engage into a tough conversation.

Just like with sailing, I picked up skills over the years to navigate through the difficult conversations in my life, managing the lightning bolts caused by emotions and gaining more courage and new skills to bring the conversation into calmer water.

Will there ever be a moment that tough conversations will be easy? I don’t know. What I do know is that we can keep practicing. Overtime we become more confident, comfortable and skilled at it. It’s a life long learning process and we want to keep practicing.

Three Dynamic Dimensions in Tough Conversations

I have learned that there are 3 dynamic dimensions to a difficult conversation, in which we focus on managing ourselves within ourselves, ourselves with others, and ourselves with the process. The challenge and art is to keep the focus on all three dynamics at the same time when we are going through the waves of a tough conversation.

“Self with self” is where relationship mastery starts. When we are unaware of the impact of our internal judgments, biases, emotions, beliefs and assumptions, we act mindlessly and a difficult conversation will continue to be difficult.

Managing ourselves with mindfulness, self-love, and understanding is impacting how we are showing up in these challenging interactions. Here are 5 key tips about how to show up as your best self in a tough exchange, while keeping an eye on “self with self. ”

1.Establish a mindfulness practice for yourself

This could be meditation, yoga, breathing, nature walks, or any practice that helps you get in touch with what is going on inside of you

2.Know your resources 

When we are thrown off balance by our own emotions such as anger or judgments we need to find a way to get back to our “resourceful” self. What are some of the resources you have available? (E.g. music, journaling, a time out, etc.)

3.Mind your language (your inner chatter)

The ways we talk to ourselves influence our relationship with ourselves and consequently with others. How we “language” our experience is incredibly impactful and meaningful.

4.Self-awareness leads to healthy relationship management

When we know ourselves well, our strengths and limitations, we know how to manage ourselves in difficult situations.

5.Become Present

The moment we start thinking about how we are going to respond to the other, we are no longer present with the other and we stop listening. Instead, listen deeply and trust that you have the best response at your fingertips, when the other person has finished speaking.

More Resources for You: 
> WEBINAR: In case you’ve missed it here is the recording of a webinar I conducted last Spring: “Key Strategies for Taking the “Difficult” out of Difficult Conversations.”
> CARD SET: Little Upsides assist you to get to know yourself better in difficult situations with others. A colorful card set with 50 quotes and questions to dig a little deeper and set a constructive tone for your interactions.

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