Stop Avoiding Your Difficult Conversations, Clean the Slate

clean slate 2In some stories, feelings change or circumstances change. Connections, employment, and friendships end with no warning. There’s no explanation. Nothing is ever said.

One woman told me a dear friend of ten years suddenly stopped calling. When she reached out to see if all was well, her calls went unreturned. She never heard from her friend again.  Years later she still feels hurt. She still wonders.   

A painting contractor told me of a long-time trusted employee who worked for him. One Sunday he called this man to review the week’s schedule. The man wasn’t available.  He didn’t call back. The contractor never heard from his employee again, even though the family confirms the man is fine.

Another woman shared that she talked with her out-of-state nephew by phone about his visiting her. One day she emailed him to confirm dates. No response. Repeated efforts to connect went nowhere. He is still at the same address and phone, but two years later she has not heard back.  She’s still hurt by the lack of response or explanation.

A young client was asked by a college friend to be her bridesmaid one year later.  She gladly said yes. Two years have passed since that day, yet my client has still not heard back from her college friend in spite of efforts to connect. She, too, wonders what happened.

On more than one occasion in my corporate career, newly hired employees didn’t show up for their first day of work. Instead, they became unreachable. They never responded to phone calls, never provided an explanation.

The stories are endless in both personal and business settings. They happen on the job. They happen with family members. They happen with friends.

In each case somebody wonders what changed. What happened? What should I do? In time, most people move on and let go, but until they do, it’s confusing, painful and stressful.

don't say nothingAnd it’s all because we’re afraid to face tough conversations. We’re afraid to “just say it.” Usually the excuse is we don’t want to create hurt feelings. But, usually, the truth is we don’t know how to say what needs to be said and we just don’t want to feel so uncomfortable.

What strikes me as so ironic is that when we avoid the conversation to avoid hurting feelings, the other person is hurt anyway. They don’t know what to think. They have no closure or explanation, and there’s no opportunity to learn to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Skipping a difficult conversation does not spare feelings! It does not avoid hurt. It simply avoids your discomfort. Take a stroll down memory lane in your life. What challenging conversations have you skipped to avoid hurting someone, or to avoid your own awkwardness.

It’s never too late to clean up mistakes or misunderstandings. Consider reaching out to people you’ve left hanging. Clean the slate. You don’t necessarily have to rekindle the relationship, though that’s an option. What’s important is saying what didn’t get said and creating closure for both you and them.

Just dive in. Have that difficult conversation you've been avoiding.

Just dive in. Have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding.

 

I can honestly make these recommendations because I have had these difficult conversations. I have asked hard questions when I didn’t understand someone’s silence. I have gone back and shared my perspective where I had unfinished issues. I’ve cleared things up years after there was a falling out.

And every time I face a difficult conversation, the payoff is worth it. There’s relief.  Stress vanishes. Relationships improve. Conflict diminishes. And every single time, there is some positive element of surprise.  Some bonus I didn’t expect.

Everyone benefits…but especially you! Isn’t it time YOU jumped into that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding? Just do it!

Put on Your Big Boy Pants: Have that Tough Conversation NOW

road block

Road blocks to difficult conversations exist only in your head!

What’s stopping YOU from having the difficult conversation lurking in your head?  

Is it……?

Procrastination……Fear of rejection……Fear of anger……Embarrassment……Not knowing the way to say it……Fear of reprisal……Shoot the messenger fears……Your own discomfort…..You’re afraid you’ll be emotional……Your fear of their reaction–uh oh!……Not wanting to face the truth……You’re STILL waiting for the right moment……Your refuse to own your own your stuff..….Fear you might lose control……They should come to YOU…..Certainty that YOU’RE right……You are much too hurt……You don’t believe in talking about such things……You can’t admit you were wrong……You’re waiting for THEM to go first……You just don’t know where to begin……You tried already……You think, “Oh, it will all just blow over”……You don’t believe it will make a difference?

ostrich

Is this you?

Whatever the reason is (or reasons) for your delay, the end result is the same. Nothing and I mean NOTHING improves when you avoid an uncomfortable, difficult conversation regardless of all the excuses you make in your head.

According to J.D. Schramm in Harvard Business Review, “Often our fear of having the conversation with somebody about a sensitive subject can be worse than having the conversation itself. We put off bringing up a tough subject because we are waiting for the “perfect opportunity.”

But the uncomfortable truth, the truth we all know, is this:  there is no perfect opportunity. If we wait, the conversation will never happen.

We have to just put on our big boy pants and do it. WE need to make the first move regardless of who spoke last, or who we think is wrong, or exactly what happened, or who we think SHOULD reach out first. We need to take a breath and begin.

go sign

Follow these tips to help you get started on that difficult conversation you’re avoiding:

  1. Write out your thoughts – If time allows, write. Write how you think you’d say it, without the anger and without the judgment. Consider it brainstorming. You’ll find both things not- to-say, and things very well said. Use your writing as a guide.
  2. Make a commitment.  If you’ve been procrastinating, set a time frame. Say to yourself (or even better, to someone who will hold you accountable) I’ll have this conversation by tomorrow, two days from now, a week from now. Just set a date that is close enough to break through your procrastination.
  3. Come up with a few good openers. Make sure you have one or two good opening lines to start off the conversation. Rule of thumb is:  be real, express yourself honestly (even if you have to say you are somewhat nervous), and be direct. Get right to what you want to talk about. No beating around the bush.
  4. Keep it private. If the topic is stressful enough to qualify as a tough conversation to you, regardless of what anyone else thinks, then privacy is a must. Never begin one of these talks in earshot of others, unless they, too, are part of the conversation.
  5. Tolerate imperfection. These talks are challenging. That means they often won’t be perfect. With that in mind, congratulate yourself for facing the issue instead of judging yourself for not saying it perfectly.  Even an average job of a difficult conversation IS an accomplishment.

None of us can avoid difficult conversations in life. They are a part of life. Unless you are a hermit, you might as well begin to develop this skill now.

Instead of avoiding the conversation, you’ll avoid the drama that unexpressed issues create. Problems, misunderstanding and disagreements not brought to light, create relationship issues and ongoing stress. As Kevin O’Leary (also known as “Mr. Wonderful” from The Shark Tank), would say, “Stop the madness.” Have the conversation and the sooner you do, the easier it will be.

Why Difficult Conversations Require a Balance of Honesty AND Kindness

got balance

The strongest relationships weather storms. They deal with conflict, disagreement. They aren’t always pretty, but they are always real.

Healthy conversations are the same. Truly healthy conversations are based on honesty AND kindness, not one or the other.  Like a chair with a missing leg, conversations that don’t value both characteristics are bound to collapse at some point. Healthy conversations cannot exist without the weaving of both honesty and kindness into them.

With only kindness, our conversations  avoid issues.  Anything that might cause pain, discomfort, hurt feelings, anger or conflict will be skipped in an effort to be kind above all else.

The moment kindness trumps truth, we pay a price. Every bit of information that appears “not nice” gets sugar-coated, or toned down, or simply censored altogether.  Such watered-down communications are inauthentic, too worried about sensitivities. Like the famous line in the movie, Top Gun, we “can’t handle the truth!” Waving the flag of kindness, we gloss over  anything that might cause the smallest blip.

But everyone pays a price when the hard truth is avoided. Communication floats over the surface. It avoids. Conversations based only on kindness are weak, filtered, and rarely very truthful, entirely avoiding what matters most.

The reverse is also true. Honest conversations that lack kindness are just as unbalanced and ineffective, but to the other extreme.

Conversations that value ONLY honesty have the potential to be brutal, hurtful and insensitive to feelings.  In my head I still hear my dad bellowing, “Well, I have to be honest!” as license to voice his opinions thoughtlessly as if honesty made it ok. It didn’t. It always hurt.

honesty kindness

Honesty and kindness need to be married into conversation to create healthy communications.

Together, the pair is powerful.  By speaking the truth we express what matters, what’s real. We get to issues. We have the opportunity to work through the awkwardness, the difficulty and come to understanding.

It isn’t always pretty or comfy but delivering communications with kindness AND honesty means we will not sidestep an issue. We will not ignore the truth simply because it might be upsetting.

What we will do, however, is opt to speak truthfully AND graciously with awareness.  Awareness of how it might sound and feel.  We’ll speak our words truthfully AND with thought.

By being honest, we face challenges and gain understanding.

By being kind, we deliver our communications thoughtfully and with awareness.

Combining the two qualities in the office and at home that takes practice and commitment. It takes courage to always speak the truth, knowing it might be difficult to hear.  Knowing it will feel great when we’re through the conversation encourages us to speak up. It’s a great motivator.

Do you struggle more with the “being honest” part of healthy conversations? Or is your challenge being sensitive and aware of others’ feelings?  Not sure? Just ask someone close to you. I promise, they’ll know and if you ask, they’ll tell you. Let me know you’re out there, tell me what you think. Agree or disagree?

 

49 Difficult Conversations: Which Ones Are You Avoiding?….Or Don’t You Want to Talk About It?

Difficult conversations. Life is full of them. More often than not people avoid them. They are uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Wrought with tension. They can be emotional. Are almost always awkward and well, they are just plain difficult.

There are numerous books about difficult conversations at home or with the boss or in relationships. It’s because unfortunately we really can’t move through life without encountering the need for difficult conversations.

crucial conversationsRather than avoid them, however, a more successful response is to simply dive into them. It reminds me of the expression, “the only way out is through.” Postponing and putting off these talks accomplishes nothing. The procrastination only intensifies the dread. The tensions mount and discomfort builds.

Nope. I’m not a believer in walking away. After years of coaching individuals in business and personal situations, not to mention my own share of challenging experiences, I’m certain it’s best to take a breath and lean into the awkwardness. Once begun, the conversations actually become easier than we expect. Half the battle is forging THROUGH the trepidation to just start. Kind of like Nike’s motto, “Just Do It.”

A difficult conversation is the need to address any subject or issue that creates the following:difficult conversations

  • Desire to run the other direction
  • Hope the circumstances will simply go away
  • Feeling of dread and anxiety even thinking of “talking it out”
  • Concern about “the way to say it”
  • Feeling of awkwardness when faced with the situation
  • Fear of saying it all wrong
  • Potential for drama, hurt feelings and emotional reactions

Here is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, list of 49 topics most experts agree fall into the “difficult conversations” category:

1.       Asking for a raise

2.       Terminating an employee

3.       Resigning without burning bridges

4.       Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend

5.       Ending a friendship

6.       Reminding a friend they owe you money

7.       Saying no to someone’s request for help, money, etc.

8.       Talking to loved ones about their end-of-life wishes

9.       Turning down an invite or opportunity that’s of no interest

10.   Bidding on a home or piece of real estate

11.   Refusing to compromise on a principle

12.   Expressing dissatisfaction with an employee’s attitude or work

13.   Cancelling a commitment

14.   Letting someone know you aren’t interested in developing a social relationship with them

15.   Expressing anger when someone violates a boundary

16.   Standing up to people who take advantage

17.   Apologizing for a mistake

18.   Delivering a poor performance review

19.   Negotiating a salary package

20.   Asking for a refund

21.   Accepting a gift you don’t like

22.   Expressing disagreement during conflict

23.   Speaking up when no one agrees with you

24.   Admitting an affair or indiscretion to your spouse

25.   Pointing out the flaws of a new plan or program at work

26.   Letting your friend know their new boy/girl friend is a loser

27.   Telling your spouse you overextended the family financially

28.   Confronting emotional or physical abuse

29.   Negotiating prices on services for your home

30.   Telling your parents you are going to break with family traditions

31.   Talking to your kids about sex

32.   Confronting your kids about drug use

33.   Telling your spouse you suspect them of  infidelity

34.   Talking to the police in confrontational situations

35.   Handling employee complaints

36.   Addressing inappropriate dress, language or hygiene in the workplace

37.   Confronting second-hand insults and comments

38.   Telling an employee they spend too much time on personal emails at work

39.   Drawing a line in the sand about behavior you’ll accept in a relationship

40.   Owning your mistakes in a relationship

41.   Making intimate requests of your spouse

42.   Telling your spouse you’re leaving, you want a divorce

43.   Confronting someone of suspected misconduct, theft or lying

44.   Giving honest feedback on work poorly done

45.   Facing your partner after a particularly ugly, out-of-control argument

46.   Apologizing for a deeply hurtful comment

47.   Telling your children you and your spouse are divorcing

48.   Talking with your spouse through the divorce process

49.   Sharing bad information with a client

Actually, the topic itself is less important in making it a tough conversation. What matters most is YOUR feeling about having that conversation.  If the mere thought of it brings up the anxiety and dread mentioned above, then for you it’s a difficult conversation and you might seek out some support to face it and get it behind you.

ostrichTell me, when do you stick your head in the sand instead of speak up? What topics do you avoid even though you know deep down the talk needs having?  I’d like to add your dreaded conversations to this for a future post. What are some of your most difficult conversations?

…..or don’t you want to talk about it?

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Office Talk: Ten Changes to Make Now

watch your mouth

 To immediately improve your communications at home and in the office, make these “don’ts” rules to live by.

Don’t begin sentences with “honestly, truthfully, frankly, or to be honest.”  Doing so implies that what you said before might not be honest. If you are honest in your communications, you will never need to say so. Your words will speak for themselves.

 

Avoid adding “but” between sentences. Use “and” instead. “But” negates everything you said before it.

 

Don’t use absolutes like “you always” or “you never.”  It’s rarely true and doing so exaggerates, quickly making people defensive.

 

Don’t let your tone and body language contradict each other. Get all aspects of yourself in line. If your tone is carries a different meaning than your choice of words, your listener will always go with the tone.

 

Don’t be a steam roller  OR  a pushover.  Neither extreme is effective in business or in relationships. Find a balance of being firm and assertive, while also being open and flexible.

 

Don’t “collect stamps” saving up old “wrongs” to use later as surprise attacks in conversation. Deal with issues when they occur. Don’t collect them for later. Stuffing issues only makes them fester and expand.

 

Don’t beat around the bush. Good communications can be challenging enough. Don’t complicate things by beating around the bush and making your listener work to figure out what your words mean.  Just get to the point with direct, clear statements.

 

Don’t deliver your feedback and bad news in a “sandwich” surrounded by positive words. Combining good and bad news as a sandwich is confusing and misses the point. If you have bad news to deliver, or negative feedback, speak up. Be honest and straight so your listener can hear the real message. 

 

Don’t come in guns blazing without thinking through your intentions and approach for a difficult conversation. Especially when the news is hard to hear, be sure you don’t just shoot from the hip unprepared. Think things through….then speak.

 

Don’t say “You  made me feel……..”  When sharing your feelings, own them. Don’t shift your feelings to be someone else’s responsibility. Start your sentences with “I”, not “you.” 

 

Making these simple changes in your conversations will have an immediate impact. Your listener will feel more at ease and you’ll find the entire communication easier, and less tense.

Give it a shot…try a few of these and then let me know in “comments” how your next difficult conversation goes using all or any of these rules. After you’ve mastered these rules, share them with your department and watch communications improve for everyone!

The Right Words to Turn Down a Reference Request

testimonials2

Just because you have been asked to provide a reference or testimonial,
doesn’t mean you are obligated.

Recently I’ve gotten numerous requests for testimonials and references.  Providing references is a great way to support those in our network. But suppose the reference request is from someone we hardly know? Or from an individual we never worked with, never purchased from?  What’s the right call then?

The answer is simple.

We tell them the truth.

We tell them we are not in a position to give what they are asking.

We remind them we have not worked together, or not worked together in years, so offering a testimonial feels out of sync.

We tell them we don’t know them well enough to speak to their strengths with confidence.

We wish them well.

It’s perfectly acceptable to not provide the reference. Opting out of such a request is always an option. The challenge is doing it honestly. Wording it well. Finding the way to say it.

Of course, saying “no” to a reference request might be slightly uncomfortable. Saying “no” usually is.  But it’s better than writing a testimonial we don’t feel comfortable giving.  To film a video testimonial, or write a letter of recommendation, or provide a verbal job reference that we can’t honestly stand behind, compromises our integrity.

And I am never never “for” that.  Saying yes when we want to say no is a people-pleasing act.  Helping is great. Supporting others is gracious, but doing so when it conflicts with our own feelings is a bad choice.

The question becomes how do we say “no” to a reference request?

 We start by:reference

 * Being truthful and genuine
* Saying it courteously and with kindness
*  Keeping  it simple, keeping it short
* Valuing our own integrity
* Not being overly apologetic  (Once will do)

 

As to the way to say it, here are some one line responses to graciously turn down a request for any kind of reference:

“You know, it’s been so long since we worked together that I can’t comfortably write you a reference.”

“Should we successfully work together in the future, I would gladly consider providing you with a reference then.  I’m sorry but till then, it’s premature.”

“I’m honored that you asked for my reference. Please know that I only provide references when I can really attest to someone’s work. I just don’t know you well enough.”

“I’m not in a position to really speak comfortably about your skills and attributes.”

“I wish I could help you out, but our working relationship is too new.”

“I’d love to see you get the job, but I won’t be able to help you with a job reference since I don’t know you in that capacity.”

These are just a few simple, honest ways to say “no” without offending the requester or looking unsupportive yourself.  You can always follow these statements with softeners like, “I’m sorry I can’t help you” or “I’m sure you understand” or even “I wish I knew you more. It’s just too soon.”

Occasionally someone will ask you to provide a testimonial anyway. Just remember, should they become pushy, it will be even more important for you to maintain your professionalism and obviously, NOT write the reference.

just say noIf you want to maintain the value of your opinion, your word, and your integrity, make it a personal rule:

Only give references for those people you feel certain about backing,

whether it’s for their skills, their character or their abilities.

Your references will carry so much more weight and substance when you do write them.

The Way to Say It Tips: Telling Your Guests “It’s Time to Go”

empty wine glass end of partyIs there really an acceptable way, a polite and appropriate way to let guests know it’s time to go?  I mean, no one wants to be rude to friends and visitors. It’s not as if we didn’t enjoy them or didn’t want them to visit in the first place. Even so on occasion, we want our guests to go home.

Maybe  our schedule the next day begins early.  Maybe we’ve been running too fast and are just exhausted. Or maybe we tend to be early-to-bed people and are ready to call it quits.

Can we say express that? What do you think? Have you ever suggested gracefully, or even awkwardly for that matter, to your guests that the night is over?

In situations like these most of us watch the clock. We say nothing. Some of us dance around and drop small hints, hoping our guests will get it. Sometimes we go so far as to begin the cleaning up as a signal it’s time.

Most of us don’t know what to do. We just wait. Few people actually tell the truth.

Let’s start with one of the easier, more clear-cut situations to see what we might actually say.

When Illness Is Involved:  

At the moment a dear friend of mine is home recovering from a serious, life-threatening infection.  Everyone in her circle wants to help and stop in to wish her well.  That support is a huge part of recovery, but it can also be a bit much. For her, some boundary-setting requests would help her preserve her limited energy and let guests know “it’s time to go.”

Here are some of “the ways to say it” that I recommend:

 “I’m so appreciative of your coming by to see me. Now unless I want my doctor, and my husband to yell at me, I have to get some rest. I hope you will visit again .”

“This has been such a gift having you visit.  It really makes me feel great. Unfortunately, if I don’t keep my visits short, I really pay for it the next day. I get so tired!  I’m planning on heading to bed in about 15 minutes.”

 “You know, I hate for you to leave, but if I don’t get lots of naps and rests each day, it really wears me out. I hope you understand I need to cut our visit short now. It’s time for me to rest.”

 “Oh, this has been a great visit. Now, if I am to get well I’m going to have to boot you guys out and go take a rest. Hope you understand! Thanks.” 

 Another skilled way to handle these communication challenges is before the fact. Instead of having an awkward moment trying to bring the visit to a close, set your time limits up front. When guests arrive, thank them and give them a head’s up of how long your visit can last.  Say something like:

“Oh it’s great to see you. I love visits but they do drain me so can we plan on about a ____ long visit?”

Or a bit stronger,

 “Thanks for coming to see me. Let me give you a head’s up….I turn into a pumpkin after about an hour and just completely run out of energy. Let’s keep our visit within that time frame.”

 Most people would agree sickness is a justifiable reason to limit our guests.  That doesn’t mean we must have such a dramatic reason to set boundaries on our time. The question remains, what about other situations?

boundary

When It’s a Normal Get Together:

 Here are some ideas to try out in your personal life:

  1. Communicate in Advance:  If you know you have friends who tend to stay long, or an early commitment, or some reason you need to limit your time together, communicate that up front. We have great friends who told us they wake at 4:30 most mornings and are in bed early.  This helps us respect their preferences. We tend to meet early and depart early as a result. No awkward moments.
  2.  Make Your Invite Specific:  When you are a host you get to call the shots.  When inviting, communicate clearly a beginning time and an ending time! There’s much less chance of needing to say anything more.
  3. Work Your Needs into the Conversation:  At some time in the visit, talk about your early commitment the next day and what time you need to be up. Or share how little sleep you have gotten and that you plan on an early night tonight. Whatever your need is, find a casual comfortable way to share it over the course of the night long before it’s actually time to leave.
  4. Be Open, Be Yourself:  Develop friendships that allow you to be yourself, that support honest communication. Get in the habit of using a casual, kidding, light tone of voice to share your preferences and habits. The more your friends know you, the more they will respect your needs and preferences, as well as express their own.

Taking these steps and having these kinds of conversations will take some practice. It won’t necessarily be smooth and easy the first few times. But we can work up to the more difficult conversations and start small.

My commitment is to honest, open conversations, even when it’s difficult. That may not be your choice. It’s really a personal decision each of us make. Just know if you don’t choose to communicate  your boundaries and limits on your time and get-together, you will occasionally have some friends who overstay their welcome. And given that you won’t have stated your needs, you’ll be part of the problem. Why not try speaking up instead?

If You Don’t Tell Her, Who Will?

breaking the silence

You’ve been observing your best friend. You love her dearly, but—-and it’s a big but—- it appears she is headed towards a disastrous marriage. Or maybe she is dating a seriously controlling bad guy, an abusive guy. What do you do?

Do you say it? Do you tell her? Because if you, as a best friend or very dear friend, can’t tell her, who exactly is going to say it? Who is going to help her see what she can’t?

Clearly she is not seeing the whole picture.

Do you love her enough to say these tough things? Do you love her enough to risk facing her anger, her hurt feelings, and possibly a huge emotional outburst?

We worry friends might not like what we have to say. We’re certain they’ll be angry. We don’t know the way to say it. We fear saying it wrong, but deep down we really fear losing them, losing our friendship.  The social norm, “Mind your own business” comes to mind. Maybe it’s not our place we say to ourselves. Maybe they won’t want to hear it. Besides, maybe they already know it. Someone else will tell them, we hope. We don’t want to face this difficult conversation.

But no one else is going to tell them.  No one will speak up. If we are truly the friend we say we are, we need to be the one. We need to say it because true, deep, loving friends want the best for each other.  To be happy, safe, healthy and ideally to not experience pain…or much pain…in life.

If we are truly concerned for our friend’s well-being, our fears need to take a back seat.  Otherwise, we are actually putting ourselves first, not our friend. Some “bestie” we are!girls crying

Difficult conversations are just that. They include risks. They may trigger unpleasant reactions, but the message to be delivered is important and far outweighs the possible short-term reactions we may experience.  NOT delivering the truth, the message, the concern, the perspective includes far greater risks and far worse outcomes than someone being mad at us.

In my distant past, I had relationships with some real unhealthy guys. One in particular was dishonest, massively controlling, and manipulative; and over time, stole from me. Even so, not one of my friends told me the truth of what they saw, not until I was in pretty deep. Now I get that ultimately I was responsible for being in the relationship, but how might my life have been different if my friends at the time told me their truest deepest opinions and insights when the relationship started rather than after it was ended years later?  Might I have sped up my personal growth process? Might I have been able to see my patterns in relationship sooner? Might I have moved on to healthy relationships faster? What if, they told me what they saw and feared?  Maybe I would simply have been stubborn and continued in the same track. Or possibly, it might have saved precious time. I might have lost less of myself, my credit and even my savings.

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, right?

Well, what if we added to that:

 Friends don’t let friends be disrespected.

Friends don’t let friends tolerate abuse.

Friends tell friends the truth, even when it’s really tough to say.

Here’s the deal. When as friends, we do speak the tough truth, we have to do so with these things in mind:

  • Your friend might choose not to listen. And that’s ok. It’s their choice and they may not yet be ready for the life lesson knocking on their door.  You still did the right thing.
  • They may get defensive. Sometimes the listener is still too mired in their denial, delusion, or pipe dream to see what we see. It’s ok; you still were a good friend.
  • Your friend may shut down entirely.  Your friend hearing your bad news may show no reaction and appear not to have heard you.  It’s ok; they did hear you, no matter how it looks.
  • You might become the bad guy. Upon hearing your perspective, your friend may defend their relationship choice and make you out to be the bad guy. That’s ok. You know the truth. You love them enough to speak up.

It’s important to keep in mind that none of us like hearing news that contradicts our feelings, especially those to do with “love” and relationships. Chances are your friend will react less than ideally to whatever tough-love conversation you have with them…at least initially.

As we deliver the news and observe our friend’s response, we must be neutral.  We need to be free of judgment. We must keep in mind the bigger picture… the long term well-being of our friends. Upon hearing what we have to say, our friend will need time to process. Time to think things over and maybe then ask more questions.

No matter what her reaction is, know this:  your sharing the honest truth planted a seed. Your friend may heed it now, or they may need time to process it, or even to hear it from others. But, you as their true friend have done your part by speaking truth. They and only they get to decide what to do with it.

tough love 2In my mind a really true friend loves me enough and has the guts to tell me the truth, plain and simple. The real good ones even love me enough to continue loving me even if I don’t “get it” right away. They wait. They give me time.

Have you ever had a friend show up for you at this level? A friend who loves you so much they are willing to piss you off, take the risk you will be ripping mad and even possibly shut them out, to protect you and show what you are not seeing for yourself?

I’d love to hear your stories. Then stay tuned for ” the way to say it”  in a tough-love conversation in my next blog post.

 

P.S. Sorry guys for ignoring you on this post, but in my experience guys tell their buddies when a woman is the wrong one for them. If I’m wrong on that count, let me know your experiences.

25 Habits that Kill Great Communication

Stop making difficult conversations harder than they need to be.

Stop making difficult conversations harder than they need to be.

The Way to Say It  is about more than just choosing the right words.  It’s also about what NOT to say and how NOT to behave.  It’s about conversational habits we need to break and remove from our difficult conversations. 

Many of these behaviors are so habitual we don’t even realize how they block powerful communication and sabotage our very efforts. Each of these 25 habits undermines trust, creates distance and keeps us from our conversational goals.  

What’s the point of stepping into a difficult conversation only to make things worse with your attitude or tone of voice, or even passive-aggressive behavior?

Learning to master difficult conversations takes effort. Make sure your tough talks don’t include any of these bad habits. 

Here are the behaviors that need to go:      

    1. Blaming others  while believing we are guilt free
    2. Using a sarcastic tone of voice
    3. Blind siding with a surprise attack
    4. Taking a defensive stance
    5. Attacking by using “you” statements
    6. Avoiding the actual subject
    7. Dancing around the issues with implications and vagueness
    8. Pretending all is well
    9. Fighting dirty with name calling or intentionally hurtful dialog,
    10. Talking over others
    11. Being a poor listener
    12. Playing the “I’m right, you’re wrong” card
    13. Saying the right words with the wrong tone
    14. Wanting to prove your point rather than resolve issues
    15. Making the issue public
    16. Not owning your stuff, your feelings
    17. Dismissing others’ opinions
    18. Patronizing and belittling others
    19. Interrupting others’ talk
    20. Not acknowledging honest effort of others
    21. Being dishonest
    22. Withholding the truth
    23. Avoiding eye contact
    24. Multi-tasking rather than being present
    25. Making excuses for your behavior

Which of these habits are yours? Most likely some, if not many, of these habits are things you have done when conversations are challenging. We all do. Especially  when we’re angry, hurt or impatient. To really lean into tough conversations and create dynamic, clear, honest connection, we need to eliminate these behaviors.

It may not be reasonable to expect to break all your bad communication habits, after all we generally learn them from our families and these habits go back years. But that is no excuse for continuing what is counter productive. One by one, we can learn the way to say it with respect, without tone, listening and owning our part and really breaking through to resolve issues and create powerful results.                                                                                           

something newFirst, we need to raise our awareness so we realize which destructive communication habits are ours. Once we identify the communication styles that are hampering our success, then little by little we can substitute a healthy alternative  that fosters trust, builds connection, and breaks down barriers rather than creating  new ones.

It’s a new year! How about starting off by observing your communication habits and admitting which ones are killing your communications?

Three Ways to Say “No” This Holiday Season

Just say it!

Just say it!

Have you spouted out a solid “NO” yet today? How about yesterday? Last week?

It’s the Holidays and as much as we all want things perfect, in actuality, it can be a tense time.  There are long lists of errands to run. There are multiple demands on your time.  There are far too many people’s opinions to take into account for the dinner menu, the guests, the time, the gifts, and all the other details to plan a “perfect” holiday event.

Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays and whether you love or hate them, there is added stress not present the rest of the year.  It’s a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. Not if you open your mouth and say that two- letter word you’re screaming on the inside. Say it. Say “no.”

Say things like, “No. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you with the children’s school play this year. I’m going to have to pass.”

Or maybe you need to say, “Thanks for the invite to your Christmas party. I so appreciate being included. Unfortunately, we can’t make it this year.”

Possibly your “no” might be about setting limits on gifts and holiday purchases. Maybe what needs to be said is “I would love to exchange gifts with everyone in the family, but this year the budget just isn’t going to cover it. Let’s look at that again next year.”

It’s not critical that the actual word “no” be included in your sentence. Nor is it necessary for you to defend and explain why you can’t make the party or won’t host dinner this year. In fact the less said about why, the less likely you are to cave and be talked out of your response. Just find the simplest, nicest way of saying “no” showing appreciation to others and still protecting your own boundaries.

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be harsh and selfish. Nor does it have to be overly apologetic and guilty. The word “no” is an important element of difficult conversations and a small word with a huge impact. Neglecting to use this powerful word to set your limits and protect your time or your money or your energy will undoubtedly leave you giving too much of yourself away.

Start this holiday with a gift to yourself. Say “no” when that’s what your instincts are screaming inside. Say “no” when there is too much on your plate, or you just aren’t interested in the activity. Practice by saying “no” to one request each day, no matter how small. All totaled up, those little limits you set will leave you feeling lighter, less stressed and more in the spirit the holidays are all about.

Remember, difficult conversations mean saying, not thinking, what is true for you.