We need to talk. Those can be four of the scariest words to hear or read, especially from someone you’re in a relationship with. But they don’t have to be, when you know you and your partner have awesome communication skills. It takes time and effort to hone these skills, and one of the best places to do so in the midst of a difficult conversation.
Why Have Difficult Conversations?
Showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all. Although you may think avoiding a difficult conversation means you’ll be more comfortable, in the long run, the opposite is true. The longer things fester, the more resentment breeds. It’s better to face the music of whatever the topic is as it’s happening, even if you don’t have all the answers.
Confronting your issues, whether it’s in a romantic relationship or a platonic one, promotes growth both within yourself and with your partner. Things that don’t grow tend to wither and die.
Miscommunication and Misunderstandings
Before diving into a difficult conversation, identify the key points you need to discuss. For example, if you’re talking to your partner about distribution of chores in your home, what exactly do you want their help with? It’s not productive to point fingers and say things like, “I need help with everything.” What’s everything? Would you like them to take out the trash, wash the dishes a few nights a week, clean the bathrooms, etc? Having a plan upfront makes the conversation less about blame and more about what you need.
More often than not, conflicts in our life are fueled by miscommunication. If you think a partner should simply be doing more, you can easily convince yourself they just don’t care when they don’t. No one is a mind reader, if you’re upset or bothered by a certain behavior, it’s better to discuss it rather than assume your partner knows what’s bothering you.
Be more curious
When we’re upset, it’s easy to rush to judgment. In the midst of a difficult conversation especially, we tend to listen to reply. Rather than having rebuttals already queued up in our minds, it’s more productive to ask for clarity if we don’t understand what our partner is telling us. Listen to hear what they’re saying and ask questions to further the point if you’re just not sure. For example, if your partner says something in response to your question that you’re not sure of, reply with, “I want to fully understand where you’re coming from, could you explain it a bit more?”
This gives our partner the opportunity to clarify without judging them. We’re not rushing to make our point. Curiosity turns what could be an argument into a conversation instead.
Silence is Golden
Silence can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re having a difficult conversation. You may feel that your partner isn’t engaging with you, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Since we’re having a conversation and not an argument, there should be no rush to come up with responses. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to consider what you or your partner are saying before replying. Stop speaking just to fill the silence and use this time to really contemplate what is being said. Personally, I have the hardest time with this. I have to remember not everyone thinks on the fly like I do, and stop and take a breath. My husband will sit quietly for a lot longer than I’m comfortable with, but that’s my issue, not his.
Communication is Key
Whether you’re having a difficult conversation or an easier one, talking through potential issues with your partner doesn’t have to be anxiety producing. I’ve found writing down my thoughts ahead of time helps keep me on track and not wander off into the land of what if’s. The most important thing is to go into the discussion without judgment and be open to what your partner has to say in return.