8 tips on difficult conversations & the most common mistakes to avoid

Whether it’s with your partner, colleague or a family member — difficult conversations are not something anyone is looking forward to. There are however a few communication techniques that have the power to help you avoid misunderstandings and spiriling into a fight

And like with any skill, the more often you do it, the less awkward it becomes. 

Hope these tips will help.

When it’s you giving feedback

  1. Pick the right time and setting.
    Don’t try to sit them down to it if you or they are having a stressful day. Maybe sitting down is not the best option at all — maybe going to for a walk in nature would be more grounding. Pick the time and environment using your best understanding and intuition. Don’t be afraid to schedule that meeting. 
  2. Use the Mirroring Technique.
    If you have time, go through my 9-step guide to Mirroring Technique. You can ask your conversation partner to do the same, to make sure you’re on the same page.
  3. Give feedback in the 1st person.  
    Share your emotions and feelings — NOT your interpretation and projection of the internal motives of your conversation partner. For example: instead of saying “You don’t care”, say “When you do this, I feel like you don’t care.” 
  4. Use “and” instead of “but” whenever possible.
    For example: “I know you’ve had a lot on your plate AND you promised to take care of it, which is why I feel disappointed.”
  5. Keep the eye contact.
    Not that you need scientific reports to know that eye contact deepens human connection. But it’s been proven that it also releases oxytocin — the same hormone released when you touch, hug or make love.
  6. Stay in touch with your own feelings.
    Keep monitoring where your mind goes — and be brutally honest with yourself. If you notice getting triggered and spiriling into saying things you’ll later regret — pause the conversation and air your head. At the same time…
  7. Avoid going on a guilt trip. 
    We’re all human and things slip. Apologise if necessery. Readjust your patterns and try again. Stay curious, compassionate and vulnerable. 
  8. Be ready to agree to disagree.
    You certainly don’t have to agree on everything, but it’s especially important to accept that your partner experiences things differently than you do — and show them that you respect that.

When it’s you receiving feedback

  • Do your best to open up to what your conversation partner is saying, even if it feels uncomfortable as hell. Listen with curiosity and compassion — which obviously will be challenging if you feel it’s not being reciprocated. Regardless, do your best.
  • Try to see it NOT as a power play or an attempt to prove someone wrong, but as an effort to improve things for both of you. It might be difficult, especially if that has been the pattern in this dynamics. Again, do your best.
  • Every now and again — and definitely at the end of the feedback — paraphrase what you’ve been told to make sure you understood the other person’s intentions.

Most common mistakes here:

  • Interrupting and jumping in with your response before the other person has finished. Stay calm and collected.
  • Judging what and how the other person is saying things instead of being present in the moment.
  • Thinking of other topics.
  • Thinking about your reply.
  • Listening with a specific outcome in mind, for example, an intention to make yourself look wise and mature.

If these tips resonate and you want to take it further — especially with your love partner, dear friend or a family member — here are 11 questions you can ask to deepen mutual understanding, trust and intimacy. Even if right now you’re going through a hard period.

Now over to you! 

Tell me in the comments which tip you find most powerful — or how you handle difficult conversations. 

Let’s make the world a happier place, one couple at a time.