Sometimes, we need to say things that are hard. Challenging. Likely to upset the other person. Tough to admit, or articulate, or accept.

As hard as having that talk might be, though, you know that not saying anything will just make the situation worse.

So you take the first – and often most difficult – step and decide to have that tough conversation.

Now that you’ve made this decision, what can you do to help that discussion go as positively as possible?

  • Commit to seeing it through. Bringing up the subject isn’t the same as reaching a resolution. If the other person pushes back, gets angry or emotional, or refuses to hear it, resolve to continue having the conversation until the issue is addressed. That may mean taking a break and coming back to it later. That may mean that you’ll have to start all over again – maybe with a different approach to the subject. If you really do need to talk about it, you owe it to yourself to hang in there until you’re comfortable with the outcome.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Think about how the other person will feel during the conversation. What’s her perspective? Where is he coming from? Thinking empathetically about the conversation will help you speak to the other person’s concerns and help you be prepared for how she might react. It may also help you clarify your own perspective so you can more clearly articulate it.
  • Prepare and rehearse. When it really matters how you say it, thinking through what you want to say BEFORE you actually say it can make a difference. You can write it down, talk it over with a trusted friend, or mentally review how you envision saying it. Whatever approach you take, the thought and care you put into your preparation can pay off when you’re actually having the conversation.
  • Practice kindness. Remember the Golden Rule of Communication – Say unto others how you would want it said unto you. It’s not just your words, either – your body language and tone of voice are just as much a part of your conversation as what you say. If your words are kind but your tone is harsh or your body language is closed off, you may be inadvertently hurting your chances of the other person responding positively to what you’re saying.

No one looks forward to having a difficult conversation. However, by committing to finding a resolution, preparing with thoughtfulness, and approaching the talk from a place of empathy and kindness, you can be confident that you’ll be handling the conversation in as positive a way as possible.

Have you ever dreaded having a conversation, only to have it turn out better than you could’ve hoped? Tell us how you did it here.