In any long-term relationship, there will be hard conversations—like an illness your partner has, something they did wrong, a better sex life, or finances. Regardless of the situation, knowing how to have a difficult conversation with a loved one will keep your discussions drama-free and healthy. Here are nine practical tips to keep in mind.
Acknowledge that the conversation is difficult
Acknowledging that the conversation is difficult will help put the other party at ease. Somehow, it helps to know they’re not the only ones scared of broaching the topic.
You can use phrases like “I understand your reluctance about addressing this issue, but I’m sure we can walk through this together. Tell me how you feel” or “I know this is hard for you to express, but please continue.”
Validate their opinion when they eventually speak
Hard conversations require vulnerability, transparency, and an open mind. Bear in mind that what makes the conversation hard in the first place is that you share conflicting views about the matter at hand. Defending yourself or trying to make a point can be tempting, but be patient.
Don’t jump into defence mode and make your partner feel they shouldn’t have brought the topic up when they do. Instead of defending yourself, say, “I see how that hurt you, and I get your point. However, here’s what I actually meant.”
Do not interrupt each other
While thinking about how to have a difficult conversation with your partner, remember that it’s not a competition about who’s right or wrong; it’s a discussion between two teammates on the same side.
If the other party is making points you disagree with, relax and wait for your turn to speak. Interrupting them can be interpreted as selfishness or disregard for their opinion. When you realize your faults, admit them and apologize sincerely. Sometimes, you might not even be at fault, but it’s best to compromise so that conflicts do not blow out of proportion.
Knowing how to apologize can smoothen the rough edges in your relationship, but if you don’t know how to apologize sincerely, you can make things worse. An effective apology is heartfelt and genuine and communicates true regret, remorse, and readiness to make amends.
Tip: Never say, “I’m sorry you felt that way” instead, say, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way.” The two sentences appear similar, but they actually communicate differently.
The first makes your partner feel you aren’t taking responsibility for what has happened; instead, you are making it seem they chose to feel that way themselves. The second gives them the feeling you’ve taken responsibility for your actions.
Also, never finish an apology with a “but.” Like, “I’m sorry I wronged you, but—” That defeats the purpose of the apology. Instead, give them the necessary closure without ruining it with a counter-accusation.
Adjourn when things get too heated
Addressing issues will not always be rosy. Sometimes, arguments may erupt, and things can go south real fast. To avoid that, leave when you notice that things are getting heated.
It’s perfectly fine to leave a conversation mid-flow and postpone it till you both feel calmer and more ready to address the issue.
Instead of going ahead with the conversation when things seem to be getting out of hand, you can say, “this is getting heated, and we’re here to address this issue amicably, not start a fight. Can we continue later? Say 5 pm?”
However, it’s important to agree on a time to continue, so you don’t get tempted to sweep the issues under the carpet.
Always go for action points
Never leave a difficult conversation without talking about what you’re both going to be doing differently or more effectively. The purpose of the discussion is not only to discuss but also to find a way to resolve it.
While having a difficult conversation with your partner, stick to the issue. Don’t bring up other matters while you’re still trying to resolve one. And don’t hesitate to subtly call your partner to order when you notice they are bringing in a different topic entirely.
Thank each other for having the conversation
After having that difficult conversation, appreciate each other for talking about the issue to ease the tension or awkwardness that might follow. It’s as simple as saying, “thank you for sharing your feelings/needs/opinions/thoughts.” “I’m glad we were able to address this.”
Want peace in your relationship, with zero drama and no bad energy? Learn how to have a difficult conversation with your loved one. No matter how committed you are to each other, issues will arise. It’s how you handle them that’ll make all the difference!
If you’ve tried these tips and nothing seems to be changing, or rather getting worse, you should consider having relationship counseling with a therapist to help you get to the root of the problem and figure out better ways of handling conflicts. Mytherapist.ng is at your service anytime!