5 ways to…handle courageous conversations

Why positive communication takes courage

Sweaty palms, stomach in knots: you know the feeling leading up to a tough conversation. No wonder we avoid confrontation like the plague. But when they’re handled well, everyone comes out stronger, happier and healthier. To mark June as ‘Effective Communication Month’, we explore how to navigate a courageous conversation.

1. Start with the end in mind.
What do you want to achieve: for yourself, for the other person, for your relationship? How do you need to behave in order to achieve it? Keeping these points front of mind will anchor you towards the end goal, rather than just trying to ‘win’ the argument.

2. Facts first.
Start with the facts about the situation as you see them, before explaining how you feel and the impact that has. Separating facts from emotions means you can communicate the whole story in a rational, clear manner.

3. Listen without filters.
Ask the other person to explain the facts from their side, their feelings and the impact on them. Focus all your attention on what they’re saying, taking into account non-verbal cues, and avoid mentally planning your next counter-argument: it’s a dialogue, not a debate. Only by understanding the situation as they see it will you be able to reach a solution.

4. Recognise your trigger points.
No matter how well-prepared we are, emotions can take hold: either of you might go into attack mode, or withdraw from the conversation entirely. Consider what these responses look and feel like, so that if they do start to take hold, you can bring yourself, or them, back from the brink.

5. Be generous.
The way we interpret people’s words affects our emotional reaction, so assume the best. Reframe their words and actions in the most positive light possible, and listen out for the good intention behind them – it’s there if you look hard enough.