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How to Handle Difficult Conversations

How to Handle Difficult Conversations

 

Avoid Major Conflicts with Family and Friends

If you have ever held a customer service or sales position, you have likely heard that it is considered wise to avoid sensitive or divisive topics of conversation. Such topics tend to include politics and religion, but others can quickly become equally problematic. The point is to avoid conflicts and disagreements whenever possible, Instead, find topics on which you agree or can find a lot of common ground. This makes the sales transaction or overall customer service experience smoother and more positive.

The same school of thought can also be applied to conversations with family, friends, and coworkers. If you spent additional time socializing with people during the recent holiday season, you likely experienced at least an awkward moment or two. You might have even experienced an angry disagreement as you tried to engage in various conversations. With politics in the daily news, along with an endless news cycle filled with every subject imaginable, difficult conversations may feel harder to escape. You don’t want to lose friends, offend someone, or hurt the feelings of another person, but you can’t just avoid conversations altogether. Here are a few techniques to use in the hopes of avoiding major conflict while navigating difficult conversations. These techniques can help lessen the chances of anger, stress, and anxiety for all of those involved.

 

Engage

Begin by speaking directly to the other party or parties. No one likes to hear off-hand negative remarks or strong opinions blurted out in their presence. It is even worse when these comments are made to upset people and purposefully start a heated debate. Many of us have encountered this type of behavior. It might have been an elder relative at a family gathering or even a friend who had a little too much to drink. Just be calm and direct from the beginning if you really want to engage in the conversation.

 

Be Clear and Non-Confrontational

Speak clearly, without raising your voice, while avoiding angry blanket statements. Avoid saying things such as, “you always argue with me!” or, “you never listen to reason!” at all costs. Rather than placing blame, utilize “I” statements to look for common ground. Try saying things such as, “I feel that we probably have a lot in common on this issue, yet disagree on only a few points.” Let the other party know that you appreciate how they explained their position. Ask them to expand further on any points you may disagree on, so that you may better understand how they arrived at their opinion. Be genuine and avoid any comments that could be construed as sarcasm or may seem negative.

 

Be a Good Listener

Intently and courteously listen while the other party is speaking. Kindness and calmness will take you far in any conversation, but particularly one where some disagreement is likely. Do your best to hear their full statements. Try not to interrupt them or make negative sounds or facial expressions. Don’t upset them by rolling your eyes or taking a deep sigh during their stream of thought. Also, disregard your cell phone completely. Try to give your full attention to the conversation. Work hard to hear and understand their point of view, no matter how much it may differ from your own.

 

Adjust Your Focus

Be solution focused, rather than resolution focused. You may not change the other person’s mind. So, try finding and capitalizing on the areas in which you both agree. Take the time to be thorough and measured when explaining your thoughts, opinions, and overall position on the topic. Have the goal of conducting and maintaining a productive conversation where ideas are shared. The goal should not include being overly persuasive about your personal views. Having an open dialogue is healthy. It is useful for both parties and provides new information for them to consider as they move forward.

 

Be Understanding

It is natural to experience disagreements with those whom you respect, love, or share business endeavors. Our age, upbringing, education, career, socio-economic status, and geographic location all play a part in the way we form our opinions. These same items may also influence our processes of reasoning. Thus, it is unlikely that you would encounter anyone with your exact views on most subjects. Understand that others are entitled to their own opinions, just as you are. The key is to be able to navigate conversations with a wide variety of people without inciting angry conflict, hurt feelings, or loss of respect for either party.

 

Be Realistic

Be proactive and realistic in knowing when to bring the conversation to an end. The discussion should end as naturally and peacefully as possible. You may simply agree to disagree, with gratitude for additional insights both sides have offered. If the discourse took place at a family gathering, work function, or party, you may want to suggest a different topic of conversation. It might be best to find a different activity, or just choose to mingle with others in attendance. Don’t feel obligated to continue the discussion if it stops being productive.

 
 
Monday, January 13, 2020
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