6 Steps for Navigating Contentious Conversations

These days, with communication happening across many avenues like texting, social media, voice mails, etc, much can get lost in translation. Virtual modes simply can’t express tone no matter how many emoticons you use.

These modern tools have made us impatient in our dialogue, making us often speak in bullet points when more is needed, or expecting others to know what we need or want without being clear about it. This gets particularly tricky when we have to address a touchy subject.


Whether you’re a boss who needs to handle a disciplinary issue with a team member, or someone who feels misunderstood by your partner, here are some steps to help you have a successful exchange:

  1. Set your intention. What do you hope to accomplish with this conversation? Get very clear on your intention. Consider writing it down as it may change after the next steps.
  2. Discharge emotions. The worst time to have a conversation is when you’re pissed off or hurt. Your energy enters the room before you do, so if you come fired up, the other person will go on the defensive and be ready for battle. Before preparing to call or meet up with the person, vent to a trusted friend, puke into your journal, or break some shit (in a safe way, of course!).
  3. Draft a script. Now that you’re feeling less frustrated, jot down the key points of what you want to say, and put it away. Capitalize on the centering power of a night’s sleep and don’t re-read your script until the next day. When you do, tweak and revise as needed to make things as concise and clear as possible.
  4. Review with an outside source. Whether it be your coach, therapist, family member, or friend, find someone who has no ties or connections to the situation and share your script with them. Do they get a clear sense of what you’re trying to convey? Ask them to look and listen for offensiveness, defensiveness, manipulation, or fuzziness in your words. Do your words leave anything open for interpretation? After their feedback, revise, revise, revise.
  5. Schedule buffer space. Now that you’re ready to have the conversation, be sure to give yourself a few minutes beforehand to get grounded. Review your intention in your mind, take a few deep breaths, and go for it!
  6. Reward yourself. You did it! Speaking up deserves a reward! What will you give yourself after this courageous act? Maybe a long, hot bath? Some fresh flowers? A massage? Your little one will appreciate a treat for supporting you through this grown-up act.

Remember, the success of this conversation is the clear and concise communication of your message, and is not reliant on the other person’s response. While it may not be the most comfortable or exciting chat to have, you deserve to have your voice heard and your needs met.

Go get ’em!

twitterClick to tweet:

The worst time to have a difficult conversation
is when you’re pissed off or hurt.
Discharge your emotions first.
” – @KerriCoach


I’d love to hear about your experience with confrontation or difficult conversations. Join the conversation in the comments below.

Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.

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