Surviving Difficult Conversations

The art of conversation is like any art - with continued practice you acquire skill and ease.

Starting Difficult Conversations

How to Have a Great Conversation

In the midst of a difficult conversation, I often find myself spinning in circles, repeating the same point over and over again, when I really want to be listening. 

To keep myself from doing this, I like to tell my partner that I want to clearly communicate my thoughts, and ask that they allow me to communicate them before they respond. This can help create a kind of conversation where both partners feel safe, which is vital for intimacy.

Make sure you’re reflecting on your own feelings during your conversations with others (and vice versa)

Try saying something like: “It sounds like what’s happening for you is X.” You can also try asking questions about how someone else is feeling at certain points in the discussion; this will give everyone involved an opportunity to think about their emotions instead of just reacting instinctually or defensively because they’re afraid of what might come next if they don’t speak up right away.”

Listen more than talk! 

Resist any urge to jump in before the other person has finished speaking; doing so will only result in miscommunication because neither person would have fully expressed themselves yet.

You may be stuck in an argument because you can’t see what’s at stake for your partner

Before you begin talking with your partner, write down your own deepest feelings, needs and concerns about the issue at hand (both what’s important or painful to you, and why). Then do the same with your partner in mind – not what they’ve said they want or need, but what you think they care about on a deeper level. Then come together and compare notes – maybe your list and theirs are very similar but expressed differently!

Needs are different from feelings

When we say “need” we mean something that is essential to our health or well-being that must be met, such as food or water. Needs can also refer to support systems such as friends and family members who help us feel safe when we’re scared. 

A feeling is an emotional state; for example anger might be triggered by feeling unsafe around someone else’s behavior towards us so it would be considered a need rather than a feeling (this doesn’t mean anger isn’t valid though!).

When people are upset or angry their thinking tends to get rigid and narrow

That’s why it’s extra important (yet extra hard) in the midst of conflict to focus on each others needs instead of just continuing to repeat arguments about who is “right.”

6 Ways to Survive Your Difficult Conversation

  1. Active listening
  2. Not being defensive
  3. Acknowledging your part in a problem, not just blaming the other person for it
  4. Not being judgmental or critical of others points of view (do not tell them what you think they are feeling/thinking)
  5. Giving unsolicited advice (if you do this, apologize and ask if you can help in some other way)
  6. Being respectful of others’ feelings and opinions, even if they are different from yours (be open-minded)


Being open-minded about what might be possible moving forward – don’t assume that things have to stay the same because “this is just how things work” or because “that’s just what happens.” Things change all the time! 

The world is constantly evolving; if we want our relationships with others to grow more positive over time then there must also be growth between us. Sometimes this means changing your own behavior first so that it aligns more closely with your values.

You may also want to read:

Rob L. editor and writer
This article written and/or edited by Robert Lee.
The Modern Siren Program
His Secret Obsession Program


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