When I was 19 years old, I had a painful and tumultuous relationship that lasted about 8 months.
Looking back, I can see that if I had known how to handle my disappointments in the moment I could have saved myself a lot of grief.
If I were to go back and coach my 19 year old self on how to handle these hard conversations, these five tips are what I would share.
- Know your message
- State your intention
- Take responsibility
- Assume positive intent
- Start talking (and accept that it will be messy)
These tips work whether you’re dealing with a new situation that has just come up or an old familiar pattern that you’re ready to break.
01. Know Your Message
What is it that you need to communicate? Keep your message centered on what you feel, want, think, see, and need. Focus on “I” statements. A strong clear message will be about you, your thoughts, and your needs.
02. State Your Intention
Make your intention clear at the beginning and don’t leave the other person guessing about what you’re trying to do. A simple, “I want us to figure out something that works for both of us” can go a long way.
Share your ideas for the kind of relationship you want. Not just what you want to change.
03. Take Responsibility
When the other person is being unkind or unreasonable it can be hard to see our part. Take responsibility for any way you may have been unclear in your communication, any time you have let something slide that you should have spoken up about, or excused your own inconsistent behavior.
04. Assume Positive Intent
When you assume positive intent you aren’t letting anyone off the hook for their bad behavior. You’re just assuming that they have a good reason for their behavior.
05. Start Talking (and accept that it will be messy)
Tips 1-4 are all about getting your head right for a hard conversation. And here is where you have to back yourself up and work through it. It won’t be smooth, but it will be productive when you follow these tips.