As someone who used to shut down and not express myself, and having moved through that to a place where I’m now super comfortable having the MOST difficult conversations, I can honestly tell you that your entire life will change when you embrace having those icky convos.
Obviously, there are SO many different reasons we need to have difficult conversations, and each one will require a different approach. You also need to think about WHO you’re having the conversation with, knowing that there will be some people in your life who will project their feelings on to you, some will react without thinking and others may go quiet.
No matter who it is you’re talking to, go in prepared.
And what I mean by that is - rather than just thinking about what you want and need to say, think about who you’re speaking to and how they may respond.
That way, prior to having the conversation, you have already thought about what the possible reactions will be, meaning that you won’t be caught off guard when it happens.
So, here's a few of the key aspects to effectively communicating your needs with heart.
1. Give yourself time to process.
What I mean by this is don’t launch into a conversation without thinking about what you’re saying and more importantly what you WANT to say. It’s the quickest way to start a fight and make you feel like shit.
So, if someone says something to you that doesn’t sit right, or there’s something that’s unresolved or something troubling you - rather than starting a screaming match or laying blame or just speaking for the sake of speaking - take the time to think about what it is that bothers you, or that’s unresolved or that you need to communicate.
So maybe this means sleeping on it. Journaling on it. Going for a walk. But just giving yourself time to step away whatever is going on, so you can come back to you and then reassess what it is you want to say.
By doing this, it means that when you have the conversation, you’re able to do it in a really productive way, and articulate what you want to say.
The same goes for texts. Don’t ever feel like you need to respond to someone immediately. I am the worst at remembering to text friends back sometimes - and it doesn’t cause arguments because we are grown adults that realise sometimes we just forget.
BUT - if someone is launching at you in a text, take time to think about what you want to say in response, what they’re saying, and what you REALLY want to say - that isn’t going to create more harm.
In saying that, I am a big advocate for just not responding if someone is just abusing you and there’s nothing you can really say in return.
2. Think about your approach.
Again, this comes down to firstly thinking about what approach is going to make you feel comfortable, but also what is going to make the other person comfortable.
So thinking about the little things, like:
Where are you going to have the conversation? Somewhere mutually agreeable and comfortable, where you have time and space to talk without being interrupted
When are you going to have the conversation? This is super important, especially if it’s going to be a longer chat. So taking into consideration what each of you have on, when you’re going to be alone and when you have time and space to think.
Thinking about both perspectives. You obviously have something you need to get off your chest, but have you stopped to think about the other persons perspective. Think about how you feel but also think about how the other person might be feeling.
If you want to have a conversation with heart, where you are able to express yourself and your needs, you also need to think about the other person.
So it might be that you say to them “Hey, I really want to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind, and I want to work out a time that suits both of us where we can sit and chat without having to rush off to do something.”
Super simple right. But it’s often the small details we forget.
If you think about the start of any relationship, friendship or romantic - you always think about the other persons needs. You want to make them happy and you’ll do anything to do that - and vice versa. But the longer we know each other, the more we tend to forget about the other person, especially if our needs aren’t being met. Which leads to the next thing
3. Explain your needs and how you’re FEELING.
Yes that’s right. I want you to use that icky and scary F word… Feelings.
Sometimes we can explain something until we’re black and blue in the face and feel like we aren’t getting anywhere… And maybe that’s because the other person doesn’t understand HOW it makes you feel or WHY it means so much to you.
I’ll give you an example of this from my own life - and this is where the power of journaling plays such a huge part in my life.
When Chris and I first started dating, there were a couple of things that really got to me. I tried to explain it to him, but it got met with resistance because in his mind, what I was worried about was “nothing to worry about”.
Which, let me tell you, can be infuriating. Trying to tell you partner how you’re feeling to almost feel like you’re being dismissed.
But the thing was, he wasn’t dismissing me, he just didn’t understand where I was coming from.
One day, in one of my angry / frustrated states - I went to town on my journal. And this is when so much clarity came through for me - and always does.
What came up, was that I felt like he was being blasé, and in doing that, I felt disrespected. Like he didn’t care about my feelings, that my feelings weren’t valid and like I wasn’t seen. And I told him that. And in doing that - it finally allowed him to see how I was feeling and why it was such an issue for me.
And obviously, we then had an amazing conversation about it and were able to talk through it together.
4. Go in with a solution or a question, not just the problem.
This is probably my number 1 tip for having a conversation with heart.
Anyone can go to someone and tell them a problem…. But not everyone thinks of having a solution to that problem.
If you think about the work environment, we can easily identify when something doesn't’ feel right, or when we are annoyed by something. So there will be times employees will go to their managers and tell them the problem and just expect their boss to fix everything.
Whereas, if you go to the meeting and say “This is how I’m feeling because of this… It’s frustrating / upsetting / annoying me because of this. And I’ve been thinking about how we can change things for the better and these are the possible solutions I’ve come up with…
A, B, C, D... - I would love to hear your thoughts on them, or if there’s another way you think we can resolve this issue, I’d be really open to hearing about that as well."
I can tell you now, every single manager is going to respond so much better to the second approach - because you’re showing initiative and taking responsibility for what’s going on.
Similarly, if it’s about a relationship.
"This is how I’ve been feeling about this…… I’ve been thinking about ways we can work through this and this is what I was thinking. I’d love to know what your thoughts are."
The other really powerful thing to do in this situation is what is commonly known as a compliment sandwich.
Let’s say your partner has a tendency to leave dirty clothes lying around the house and it really pisses you off (and note - dirty clothes can be translated into anything)
I’m so grateful for you helping out with dinner an the dishes every night and I bloody love living with you, but I was wondering if you think you could put your dirty clothes in the basket instead of the floor. Because it really irks me, and I don’t want us to argue over something so small.
I really do appreciate everything you do for me, so I’m hoping you can do this one little thing for me."
OR - you don’t even necessarily have to backend the chat with a compliment.
I know you love me and you would do anything for me, and I am so grateful to have you in my life.
There is one little thing that’s been getting to me a bit, and I’ve tried to work it out on my own, but I need your help. Sometimes when I tell you something, if you disagree, I feel like you can be a bit dismissive rather than listening to what I have to say, and this makes me really uncomfortable.
I don’t want to feel that way, and I don’t want to withdraw, but I know this is what’s going to happen if it continues, so I just wanted to tell you how I feel. I realise this may not be your intention, but this is how I feel.
I’d really like it if you were a bit more open when I was telling you something and listened rather than responding immediately. But I’d love to know what you think about this and what we can do to move through this together."
How powerful is that?!
This can be the same for a friendship or a family member, just change the words to fit.
Now… this is when your previously planning comes into play.
It might be - that if you have this conversation with someone, and they completely reject the idea, tell you “it’s all in your head” and they don’t know what you’re talking about - Then, in my opinion, it’s time to reassess that relationship.
In the past there have been friends that I’ve missed, and I’ve messaged them telling them that, knowing that their response would determine whether we remain friends or not.
Other people may project onto you - so lash out initially - and if you’ve planned ahead, you’ll know that this is their usual pattern of behaviour. So you might give them some time and space to think about it and then come back to it.
And, if you’re lucky, the person you’re talking to will be so open to having this conversation and will want to work with you through your concerns.
As I've said before, communication is essential for any relationship to work. And, it’s the primary reason that my previous relationship didn’t work, because we didn’t communicate.
The other thing is, we need to show a certain level of vulnerability in order for the other person to see us. To understand where we are coming from and what we’re asking for.
So don’t be afraid to explain why you’re feeling a certain way. Especially when it comes to sadness.
I’ve had a number of conversations with people in my life recently about crying or showing emotions in front of their family and children. And sometimes, parents feel like they can’t or shouldn’t cry in front of their kids. Or, when they do, they notice a shift in their kids behaviour, maybe they pretend their ok, maybe they withdraw a bit because they don’t want to see their parents cry.
My advice to this - it so be really open to them.
Tell them that you’re crying because you’re sad about… whatever it is. If it’s to do with them, say it’s because you care so much about them - and if its about something else, tell them that and tell them why.
And say that you want to be open with each other, and sometimes that means crying in front of each other.
Because crying is SO natural. It’s a form of release. Healing. And sometimes a way to move past something.
Open up my loves.
Communicate your needs.
And remember, start small.
Take it one step at a time.
The more you embrace difficult conversations and have them, the easier they will become.
I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this over on my Instagram - because as a society, we don’t embrace these conversations enough.