From time to time, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you must have an important conversation with someone that is inherently uncomfortable. It’s a part of life, which is why we’re sharing three methods below that will not only help you endure uncomfortable conversation but also ensure the results swing your way.
Disarm with colloquial dialogue: Do not get straight to the point. Starting the dialogue with, or otherwise infusing, informality with respect to content or delivery can make both parties feel more at ease with one another before more serious, intended topics are unpacked. You should obviously be aware of common, or even person-specific, boundaries while conversing with someone this way. While elementary, it bears repeating: Smiling when appropriate, as well as infusing humor, can work wonders. Navigating uncomfortable conversations, however heated, with a more easygoing and unceremonious demeanor can neutralize high-intensity people and emotionally charged moments, thus shifting the dynamics of the situation overall to one that’s more positive and productive.
Lean on a fact-based discussion: Whether you are the initiator of the conversation or on the receiving end, one of the worst things one can do during an intellectual exchange is not to have the facts at hand to back up positions. Figures, statistics, examples, precedents, and other substantiated reference points can be difficult, if not impossible, to argue with or deny and can serve to cut uncomfortable conversations short. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t just know your facts. Rather, prepare and know the opposing arguments well. Not only will this allow you to address or refute them if need be but also better understand the views of your counterpart.
Validate opposing points of view: One powerful and hugely disarming tactic to tame uncomfortable conversations is to authenticate an opposing argument. If you don’t agree with the opposition’s point of view, even simply acknowledging the other party’s firm beliefs in their position can put things on a better track. Brushing off opposing views as less important than yours or simply deeming them “wrong” does not facilitate healthy or constructive conversation — and it certainly won’t mitigate the malaise. Also, make sure to give the other person a chance to speak uninterrupted. Listen not so that you can provide a response, but rather to genuinely understand what the other person is trying to convey.