The Tough Conversations that are important to have

The Tough Conversations That Are Important To Have

By now you’re aware that I really try and listen to what’s happening around me. Whether it be in sessions or even in my personal exchanges, they inspire these posts.

Not so ironically, this post is all about listening.

Actually, it’s about effective communication. Even a child understands that listening is at the crux of a successful exchange of information and energy.

What specifically inspired this post?

The tough conversations. The communication that you avoid. Whether it be with an employee or a friend, your investor, or your family member, I know you can relate to wincing at the thought of having “that” talk.

Here’s the thing, THAT talk is probably important.

If successful, it should create a deeper understanding between participants. It might even create more success for each involved.

Sure, there may be some discomfort, but when did uncomfortable get to be so bad? I won’t go down that tangent, just know, the reason you’re avoiding the conversation is simply out of fear.

Explore what you’re afraid of – like hurting their feelings or making them angry.

It might be an assumption like you don’t think they’ll agree or they’ve let you down before.

Sometimes we just haven’t practiced being upfront and honest and it feels off – a bit confrontational or aggressive.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s your fear that is holding you back from everything. If you can get down to the real source of that fear – be it judgment, failure, suffering, etc – you can challenge it.

Fear is very real, to a point.

Oftentimes, you’ve experienced all of those fears, so it feels very real you will experience them again, especially when you are purposefully going into a challenging experience, like tough talk.

Once you’re clear on why you’re avoiding this conversation, you can employ some simple strategies that despite the discomfort you may both share, you will be successful at the end of the conversation. And when did uncomfortable get so bad? It’s where ALL growth occurs.


Firstly, you need to make sure you’re both really listening.

Obviously, you can’t control the recipient, but you can definitely lead by example.

Have you ever found yourself deep in conversation only to realize you have not been paying attention? I could blame my ADD but this happens to me too much, so I’ve developed some habits to help me stay engaged. I make sure I am nodding, and adding the occasional “yup” or “uh-huh,” to visually and audibly confirm I am listening.

These subtle cues give your recipient a hint, you’re still engaged. That said, when I realize I have stopped listening, I acknowledge this with a simple, “I spaced out there, forgive me, and if you wouldn’t mind, would you repeat that last point?”

I also focus on really trying to hear the message the speaker is sharing. I am NOT waiting to reply, thinking about my next comment, and I am definitely not speaking over the person talking. This isn’t just plain rude, it’s the laziest form of listening, and in my book, it’s not listening at all.

In certain cultures *newyorkerscoughcough* this is pretty normal.

If I start to feel overwhelmed or disrespected, I’ll wait until they stop talking. I’ll pause dramatically.

Then I call out what I am experiencing, “So, if you’re done speaking, may I speak without being interrupted or spoken over?”

Usually, the speaker isn’t doing this on purpose, they’re just used to this style of communication.

I’ve never offended anyone, and typically it resets the energy of the conversation.

Once we’ve gained awareness around whether or not we are truly hearing, the next level up is to confirm the message has been exchanged with the intention the sender desires.

SO OFTEN what we hear is not related to the words that were spoken.

Just last night my partner got into a tizzy because I said, “did you check the ingredients, I am not sure I can eat that mayonnaise.” He heard, “you’ve ruined dinner, don’t even bother cooking you horrible ridiculous failure.”

I noticed him getting really upset about what I thought was a superficial question, so I asked him, “what’s up?” He said, “I ruined dinner.” I let him know that none of those words were used and I took responsibility for the misunderstanding. I explained I couldn’t wait for dinner and I just would use a different sauce, no big deal. And the situation immediately diffused.

Imagine, a simple exchange like asking your boss for a raise or letting an employee know the situation is unsuccessful and it’s time to separate.

Clear communication is crucial.

The next level of effective communication is intuitive listening. When you can visibly see some becoming agitated, or you sense there is something deeper going on and influencing the conversation, please bring that awareness into the light.

Saying something like, “it seems like you’re getting anxious, am I picking that up correctly?” Or “I hear that you’re really frustrated by the pay cut, but is it really fear that your partner will be angry at you?” This allows your conversation to elevate to an empathetic level.

You might be wrong in your observations, but at least you’ve eliminated the possibility of an incorrect assumption. You’ve also empowered the participant(s) to correct you and clarify their true intentions.

Sometimes, they may not even know what’s really going on until they’re offered an opportunity to hear what they’re communicating being reflected back.

This is the secret sauce of successful communication.

Clarify the message. Get the recipient to repeat back in their words what they’re understanding. Listen intently to ensure you two are on the same page. If the message isn’t received correctly, it’s no one’s fault.

Clearly there are a ton of variables influencing communication. Once you have awareness if the message was received incorrectly, you can easily improve the clarity.

The secret bonus level, especially when having tough conversations, is making sure you’re clear on your goals and aims to create a win-win-win for everyone involved.

Letting an employee go always feels like a tough conversation. However, I am a firm believer that if this occurrence must happen, it can be a great opportunity. That resource is not succeeding, for whatever reason, and together you can create an opportunity for them to find greater success and job satisfaction.

Anytime a relationship needs to be addressed it feels awkward. When you set the intention for everyone to feel confident and empowered, you can simply focus on the challenges and expectations.

If you can not reach an agreement, this is the perfect opportunity to respect each other’s choices and acknowledge this may not be an effective relationship at this moment.

When we can respect each other’s values and differences, we create respect and confidence in knowing if the game isn’t fun for everyone, we don’t have to play!

Focus on listening, reflect back, and even dig a little deeper into the messaging and confirm that the message has been received on both sides.

You can never go wrong with effective communication.

If you’re willing to get really clear on what you’re seeking, how you can create a win for everyone involved, and be open to co-creating that win together?

You elevate your communication to successful and impactful exchanges.

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