Preparing for Hard Conversations

In any given day, many of us find ourselves in situations where we are uncomfortable. (If not, we should talk.) In those moments, a large part of the discomfort comes from our worries about what others are going to think about us and what they are going to make the conversation mean. How do you navigate those worries and fears so that you can show up authentically you?

It must be the month for difficult conversations. Lately, many of my clients have been working with me to navigate challenging discussions–how to ask for a raise, how to negotiate for a new position, how to set boundaries with family. As we navigate those difficult discussions, a common theme often occurs: these conversations are painful because we are worried about what the other person is going to think about us.

In difficult conversations, we are being vulnerable and expressing our truth and we want the other person to receive it as such, which an open mind and an open heart.

We don’t want to be judged for our truths.

This gets further complicated because we know we cannot control what other person thinks about us but yet we strive to craft a conversation that will perfectly impress upon the other person our position. We agonize over our story, trying to perfectly prepare the discussion. This is an exercise in futility. You have no control over how they will receive you (or if they will even listen to you!). So what can we do to alleviate those worries?

We own our worries and allow them to become part of our truth.

For example, when asking for a raise, one of the concerns is that we are going to be seen as greedy, ungrateful, or threatening to leave. Our minds become filled with those worries and judgments so much so that we sometimes talk ourselves out of the conversation entirely. What if instead of allowing those worries to drive us away from the conversation, those worries became part of the conversation? Instead of letting that frantic energy run amok during the discussion, we simply own those thoughts and air them out:

In thinking about this conversation, I want to make sure that you understand how grateful I am for the opportunities you have given me, I think it’s really important for women to negotiate their pay and I just want to explore this with you to see where there is room to move. I’m not planning to leave but I just want to better understand the rationale behind my current compensation.

Difficult conversations are essential to our growth and success. If you have a difficult conversation on the horizon, consider gifting yourself a coaching session so that we can fine tune your strategy and put you in the best position for that conversation. It all starts with a free consult.

For every nagging worry, every fearful thought about what they might be thinking about us in those moments, we just own them and air them. We call them out so that everyone has the opportunity to make their own decisions about those worries. Rather than letting a prospective employer think that you are asking for more money because you are greedy, you can own that in the moment and let them know your rationale for asking and confirm that you aren’t simply being greedy, you could even say that explicitly:

I find these conversations really difficult because I don’t want anyone to think that I’m greedy or over-reaching. It’s not about the money; it’s about being valued for my contributions and feeling like those contributions are recognized.

If the worry is bothering you and making the conversation more difficult, find a way to bring it into the discussion.

These conversations are intended to provide truth and clarity for all parties, don’t hold back on parts of your truth (psst, your worries and concerns are part of your truth too).

When we don’t own those worries outright as part of the discussion, they boil beneath the surface and our conversation becomes a chess match--what I can say so that they don’t think XYZ?…OMG, what if they think that means I don’t want the job?!–and we start trying to craft our responses and commentary to “control” their thinking. We end up acting weird and manipulative and can get disconnected from the moment.  Instead, when we simply air those worries, we provide ourselves the best opportunity to provide our side of the story. And, bonus, it alleviates some of that nervous energy because we release it!

In the end, you won’t ever control others’ thinking but you can at least endeavor to provide your full side of the story and attempt to address any perceived concerns (or judgements) they might have. Whatever they might make the conversation mean, you will at least be able to walk away knowing that you spoke your truth, your FULL truth.

Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

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