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How to have hard conversations

A while ago I was having a hard time getting past something going on with my partner and I.

We were disagreeing and it was creating this tension between us.

Maybe you can relate?

Anyway, I looked through all the tools I'd learned that have also helped people I've coached too.


Nope, no solution.

And then one day I found this question thanks to John Gottman.

"What is the meaning of this situation?"

At first I said to myself

"What the hell does that question even mean?"

Then I asked again.

An epiphany.

Lightbulb moment.

The meaning of ALL our disagreements were because we cared.

We cared about each other.

We cared about our kids, our dreams. Everything we've built together.

I felt resistance, but I started a conversation to get to the bottom of this disagreement and you know what happened?

With this newfound wisdom I was able to accept her opinion, didn't try to change her or demand anything of her.

I just allowed her to have her experience, said what was true for me, owned how I can improve, and what our actions are moving forward.

So often we think we need a new strategy to get a result.

In my experience we need to focus on what our heart wants.

The answer to that question:

"What is the meaning of this situation?" Brought me back to my heart.

Most of the strategy we learn to communicate with isn't needed if we decide to be radically honest.

So what's the meaning of your challenging situation with your staff, clients, partner, friends or family?

I have witnessed the miracles of this.

It doesn't mean we don't use strategy.

But strategy is useless without heartfelt action.

Here's how I'd lead into that difficult conversation in three steps if it helps.

1. Preparation For Permission

"I want to talk to you about something that I've been wrestling with, I feel uncomfortable even brining it up before you know what we're going to talk about. What I want to know is, is now a good time to have this conversation? And if not, when is?"

2. Personal Truth Telling

"You are_____" fill in the blank, is not truth telling. That's ALWAYS only your perspective only. Personal Truth Telling ALWAYS starts with "I"

I would say "I'm feeling frustrated about this, and I realise that fear is almost always underneath that. So I paused to see if I could understand what the fear is, and I realised it's a fear of being unprepared. And I know that there have been times where I've been unprepared, which has affected you. I just want to be better, but in my haste to be better, I've put extra pressure on you by way of constantly wanting to have conversations so that we can be better, which has ironically made things worse. My hyper fixation on improvement has done the opposite. So I apologise."

I made that up, but there's definitely truth in it when I've had a difficult conversation in my relationship.

3. Agreements and Actions

"What can we agree on moving forward to ensure that we both are more trusting, loved and contributed to?"

When making progress, questions are best focussed towards the future, and begin with "what"

A common mistake is asking "why"

The why is for connecting to purposeful action that gives, but if we ask why about something we didn't like, we can strengthen the story of limitation, instead of focus on moving forward. What's in the past cannot be changed. No matter how long we argue with it.

Then we take new action. That's relationship progress in a nutshell.

  1. What's the current challenge?

  2. What's our new agreement?

  3. Based on new agreement, what are the new actions we'll take to grow?

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