Scott Eblin in his blog recently summarized three books regarding conflict managment:  Difficult Conversations, Fierce Conversations, and Crucial Conversations.  He discusses how each book identifies how tough but necessary converations need to take place.  He discusses how each of these books break down conversations.  According to Eblin, “They break these difficult conversations into their component parts: the conversation about what happened, the conversation about your feelings about what happened, and how the conversation affects our sense of identity.”

For additional suggestions on how to have a difficult conversation see Judy Ringer’s webpage for a step by step checklist.  

For my part, I believe the key to having difficult or impossible conversations (something mediators do every day) is in part as follows:

  • Be Realistic.  It’s going to be a difficult conversation.  It won’t be easy and the other side won’t just say, “It’s ok.”
  • Don’t Avoid It.  Just like a festering sore, it only gets worse with time.
  • Be prepared. I like to rehearse the conversation and what may be said, and how I might react.
  • Don’t’ beat around the bush.  Be clear about your message.  People appreciate honesty, even though they may not appreciate it now.
  • Explain why you understand the other person’s position.  Pre-empt them telling you those reasons and issues to show that you understand.
  • Listen.
  • Listen.
  • Listen.  You cannot listen too much.
  • Ask yourself how you would feel in the same situation. 
  • Finally, give it time.  Time can be an amazing tool towards helping people heal from their wounds.