17 October 2014

Now Is My Time #40: Difficult Conversations

The week before last must have been a record setting week in my life for having difficult conversations. I had several. It was a week for facing things I don't want to talk about and things I don't want to hear. But I will say that overall I walked away in reasonably good spirits and feeling pretty fine about things.

Ugh. So here are a few things I learned from experience.

1. It's good to make a fluid plan when you know are have a hard conversation ahead of you. Give yourself some options and flexibility because it won't unwind exactly as you imagine it in your head.

2. Be prepared to hear you are wrong. They may just believe you are wrong but chances are you may have been wrong about something along the way too. Despite your greatest hopes, that thing you hoped was going to work out in your favor may not. You will have some disappointment in some way during such conversations.

3. Listen. Listening to the other half of the conversation can be really difficult. It may not make sense to you, it may hurt you, it may crush your dreams. But by listening you will learn the most about how to move forward.

4. When listening, make sure to ask for clarity. Repeat back what you believe you've heard to make sure you both understand things the same way.

5. Accept that some people just won't be able to have a balanced, open, honest conversation with you. In those cases, cut your losses as soon as you see it going nowhere, but no sooner. There is usually something big to be learned in the process. Running away too soon may leave you without vital, helpful information to go forward with.

6. Be prepared to disagree.  I still disagree with a diagnosis to a situation that I received from a trained professional - nothing serious btw. I think the conclusions that were offered were over-simplified a bit and may not captured the entire range of God's possibilities. I'm not sure how I feel about this one quite yet. Still processing. The diagnosis can only be A or B, there's no gray area, so to disagree puts me quite squarely at odds with said trained professional.

7. When hearing hard truths, it's okay to cry. I got a nice hug when I got a little teary-eyed during one of these conversations. This was a very friendly but still difficult to discuss conversation that involved sad outcomes. It was tough, but I pulled through it and had a nice cry a while later.

8. Anticipate you may get worse news. In the conversation mentioned in #7 we got an unpleasant surprise that no one had anticipated. It may be an issue in the future or it may not. We don't know yet. But I wasn't expecting that and it was a real blow.

9. Lean on people you can trust. Before one of these tough conversations I touched bases with a pro who could advise me. While it was tough to get into all the details, it was very helpful to have a calm voice of reason for a sounding board. She helped me see a broad range of options and not rush myself into any decisions. This was VERY helpful.

10. Anticipate that one conversation will not always be the resolution to a tough situation. Oftentimes it may be several or even many conversations.

11. Remember that you are stronger than you know. We are much more able to do hard things that we believe we are. It's the challenges that build and make us stronger -- although sometimes we just wish we didn't get those challenging opportunities.

So of my hard conversations, one is ongoing. It will be a process. One requires more follow up before we know what we will do. But now that I've had a few days to process things, I still feel like I was able to get through these hard conversations without a lot of pain or suffering. I have to admit I'm a little bit proud of myself. I didn't know how I would do. I think it all went pretty well and I gained some new confidence about how to handle sticky situations in the future.

What are your favorite tips for getting through tough conversations? I'd love to hear what you've found helpful!

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