Seven Steps to a Hard Conversation

How do you navigate a difficult conversation when you're about to tell someone that they are being selfish, ass-holey, nasty, bitchy, or a danger to themselves? Do you trouble yourself if you don't have faith that it will change the situation or behavior? Do you just walk away and let the person self-destruct or destroy the relationship? Hard conversations are delicate and challenging and all of us--at some point or points in our lives--have to have them. They are inescapable and part of living life as a grown up!
For many of us, one the toughest things in life is to tell someone about herself or himself. If the person is not hurting you, the usual go to response is to admit that, technically, it's none of your business. Some wise folks would agree and even advice that it's an individual journey that each of us must make--so, let the person stew in their crazy. Besides, it's arrogant to think that you are right in your point of view and the person in question is wrong. Right? But, this is not about right or wrong, it's about much more. As hard as they may be, some of these challenging conversations are not only inevitable but they become more urgent because the more you ignore the shitty behavior of a loved that is hurtful to you or herself, the more egregious it becomes, even if it's just your perception of it. Also, you stand to grow one conversation at a time.
I've had my share of hard conversations with people that I love, respect, and adore. Some have been major-life altering convos and I write about them in my book. And as hard as they were I am glad that I had the courage to have them. I've grown. A lot! The one major lesson that I've gleaned over time is this: ignoring is rarely the answer. Everyone needs a mirror and friends and family serve as mirrors to our behavior. And we to others. The question is, will you be a loving mirror to someone who is an asshole to you?

Here are seven things to keep in mind when telling someone that they are being crazy and you can't take it anymore:

1.     Find the right moment
Recently, someone I love dearly was dressed down by her son to the point of tears. Though they are on talking terms, the relationship, in her view, is not the same. They haven't had the talk. He is acting as if nothing happened and she is letting him think it so. She shared that she is dealing with health issues and must focus on herself. Having to talk about something that hurts her deeply causes her health condition to flare up she explains. And she is all about her healing. Until she feels strong she says she will not bring up the topic. This is not only smart but healing in and of itself. Waiting until you are ready to tackle something that is emotional to you is a great idea. When you speak with only emotion it gets in the way of listening to what the other person is saying. Also what you are trying to convey gets muddled. Consider too what the other person is going through because their emotional state may prevent your message being heard.

2.     Be loving 
Compassion is not overrated, in fact, the world needs a lot more of it. Don't believe me, check out Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan's budget.  I heard Iyanla Van Zant describe having hard conversations as care-fronting. And I like the way that sounds. Rather than confront, which is the same as accosting, open by asking if everything is OK? Or is anything wrong? You see, we are not born angry, bitchy, etc. Life and it's challenges have the potential -- if we let it be -- to turn us into assholes. So, trying to understand what is happening that is making this person you love react/behave a certain way is a good start to a good conversation. When you come from a space of love, it always works out. Always.

3.     Leave the emotions out
It can get heated so the best way to approach a heated topic is to keep the emotions out of the equation. Yes you are hurt. Yes, you are upset, sad, angry, humiliated, betrayed, fill in your blank here... but consider that that may not have been the intended result. People sometimes say things / behave without even thinking that how they prance around in the world affects others. The fact is that every choice we make affects others, directly or indirectly, immediately or not, and that is really your point.

4.    Don't try to convince
Hopefully, you appreciate that hard convos are never about convincing others that you are right and they are wrong. Rather, this is about sharing your point of view and your feelings about the situation. It is asking them to let them see through your eyes the hurt or discomfort that their actions are causing you. An interesting thing I've learned is that many times you may be innocent collateral damage and the person you are talking to may be so far in their head or ass that they may not even know how much you are being hurt. Tying to convince is not the way to go. It usually ends up badly.

5.     Don't take it personally
This is one of the hardest things to keep in mind because how are you not to take it personally when the person is being an asshole to you and it's messing up your flow? Well, don't. The truth is that most people are so deeply self involved that it's rarely about you anyway. I love Deepak's answer to PerezHilton when he was telling Perez about how his virulent gossip hurt thousands. But in the end, Deepak said, "the world is a mirror, whatever you say about others is really how you feel about yourself." 

6.     Don't accuse
Blame will never ever be taken lightly. Just think about how you would feel if you are being accused, deservedly or not, of an infraction. Humans are always about self preservation.  So, before you start blaming others, look at the role that you play in the situation. Remember the old saying, when pointing fingers look at how many are pointing your way.

7.   Be clear
Clarity is key. Practice the conversation beforehand so that you know exactly what it is you are trying to convey. Stay away from fuzzy words--sometimes things are black or white. Be prepared to explain your color hue in different ways. 

*     Send them on a Time out
Break up, divorce, separate and yes,  do it even if it's a parent, sibling, or a deeply loved mate. Sometimes the best solution to protect yourself from harm - emotional and physical of course -- is to walk away from the situation. A hard truth that I learned from a wise friend is that all relationships have an ending as soon as they begin. Even a blood relative--like my mother whom I adore --  has the potential to get kicked out of my life if she doesn't know how to behave. Harsh? Nope. Just the realization that I have the right to protect my space. 

Give yourself permission to set boundaries on how you will be treated by strangers and certainly, those you love most. It can be a temporary break up but gift yourself and your loved one space and time to contemplate, even heal. And if it never happens that they are the contemplative kind nor open to conversations about their shitty ways, ask yourself this: do you really need that kind of energy in your life?


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