How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Partner
If you’re like most people, you shy away from having difficult conversations with your partner. In this video, learn my 4-step method for speaking up!
Do you shy away from having difficult conversations in dating and relationships? If having a root canal sounds like a more pleasant alternative than speaking up about sex, money, or any other challenging topic, today’s video is for you!
Here’s the thing…most people have never been taught HOW to have a difficult conversation. That’s why it’s so scary.
Well, that changes today!
Because if you’re going to have a difficult conversation, you need to prepare. Preparation helps you feel confident and empowered. And, if you’ve prepared well, the conversation will be less stressful, and you’ll be far less afraid to speak up the next time.
I share a few tips on how to prepare for the conversation, and then you’ll hear my highly effective 4-step method for having difficult conversations when you’re dating or in a relationship.
Before The Conversation: Get Centered
It’s important to stay emotionally centered before and during the conversation, so you don’t become reactive or defensive—no matter how heated the conversation becomes. Center yourself by breathing deeply. Continue to notice when you become off-center so you can breathe, and return again to center. This is where your power lies. By remaining calm, you’ll also help your partner stay calm.
Use the Appreciation Sandwich
Begin and end the conversation with appreciation. For example, start with, “Thank you so much for talking with me.” And end with, “I feel so much better now that we’ve talked.” Or, “I really appreciate your willingness to have this discussion. I feel closer to you.”
Sample Starter Scripts for Difficult Conversations
It helps to start the conversation with a simple script. Here are a few:
“I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us partner together more effectively.”
“I think we have different perspectives about _____________________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.”
“I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective, too.”
Write an opening for your conversation before you begin.
The C.A.R.P. Method: 4 Steps to a Successful Conversation
I have a 4-step method I call C.A.R.P.
It stands for Curiosity, Acknowledgment, Response, Problem-Solving
Step #1: Curiosity
Start with open mind. Be curious. Your job is to gather information and discover what’s true for him. Pretend you don’t know anything about him and his point of view. Pretend you’re speaking with an alien from another planet. Find out what it’s like on that planet and what the values and perspectives are there.
If he really was from another planet, you’d be observing his body language and listening for unspoken messages. Do that when you have the difficult conversation. That’s how you’ll learn what he really wants, and what he’s not saying.
Let him talk until he’s done. Don’t interrupt. If you hear something hurtful, stay open, and don’t take it personally. Try to learn as much as you can in this phase of the conversation. You’ll get your turn, but don’t rush the conversation.
Step #2: Acknowledgement
Acknowledgment means showing him that you’ve heard and understood what he said. Your job is to understand him so well, you can make his argument for him. Then do just that. Explain what you think is going on for him. Guess at his intention and honor his position. he won’t be open to a fair discussion unless he sees you see where he stands.
Acknowledgment does NOT mean agreement. If you say, “this sounds really important to you,” it doesn’t mean you’re agreeing. You’re simply acknowledging how he feels. When people feel validated and heard, they are much more open to hearing your side, which is coming up soon!
Step #3: Response
When you sense he’s finished speaking, it’s your turn. At this point, you can clarify your position without minimizing his. For example: “From what you’ve shared with me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m stingy with money. I see myself as generous with my money. Frugal, yes, but generous when I have money to spend. I don’t mean to come across as stingy, although I can see how I might seem like that to you at times. Can we discuss how I might address this in the future so my intention is clear?”
Step #4: Problem-Solving
Now, you’re ready to begin brainstorming to find solutions that work for both of you. As you problem-solve together, continue to stay curious, asking him for his input. Whatever he says, find something positive, and build on it. If the conversation begins to become antagonistic in any way, go back to curiosity. Asking for his point of view usually creates safety and encourages him to engage.
If you’ve been centering yourself, keeping an open mind, listening to understand, and engaging with inquiry and clarity of intention and purpose, building mutual solutions will be so much easier.
Practice, practice, practice
If you want to have authentic and honest relationships, you absolutely need to have difficult conversations. The best part? They get easier with practice. So practice, practice, practice…on everyone and anyone. You’ll soon become a pro at expressing your needs without feeling needy or scared.
If you need support in having a difficult conversation, learn more about my speak up sessions. Give me an hour, and you’ll walk away with a script for your tough conversation.