Let’s face it. Most of us avoid the difficult conversations with our partners because we don’t want it to start another fight. Soon we find ourselves doing a cost-benefit analysis. Is the desired outcome worth the cost of an argument today? Some days we feel brave and start the conversation while bracing ourselves for the emotional consequences. Other days we remain silent and let the anger and resentment fester only to have it explode days or weeks later. This does not have to be your fate. Here are some helpful tips to start a difficult conversation.
Check Your Anger
All emotions are valid. If you want a receptive partner to hear your concerns anger is not the way to engage them. Anger comes across as attack. Very few people can feel as though they are under attack and remain open and responsive. Most people respond with defensiveness, withdraw, or counterattack. None of these responses will help you or your relationship. Instead harness that anger and allow the other emotions to come through. If you feel lonely, hurt, or disrespected; say so. Someone who is concerned about your well-being is more likely to be open to you if they can connect with your emotional experience.
Check Your Motives
It may seem obvious to you that your motives are pure. This may not be so obvious to your partner. Make sure your words are chosen carefully and respect those “hot buttons” in your partner. If you know your partner is sensitive to feeling overpowered then make sure you are doing everything you can do to level the playing field. If your partner frequently complains about feeling isolated in the relationship make sure you are paying special attention to ensuring you have included your partner in the discussion. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “Will what I say next ultimately pull us closer together or further away?” If you want to be heard and understood make sure that you words give life to your relationship.
Check Your Default
If you are prone to believing your partner does not love you or wishes you emotional harm you may want to refrain from those difficult subjects. The two of you must work through these fundamental issues before you can have open and honest dialogue. This is also true of your partner’s default. If they struggle to find the good in what you have to say the two of your will continue to struggle with difficult conversations. Once you have cleared away the negative subtitles that are playing under one another’s words you will be free to create a new story.
Communicating in relationships does not have to create additional strain in a relationship. Some conversations are difficult to start, yet we still need to have them. Be brave and express yourself. Honest conversations are the building blocks to emotional intimacy.