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Before You Have That Tough Conversation, Consider Your Motive

Recently I did a broadcast on how to have a difficult conversation. We all need to have a hard conversation with someone occasionally, but most don't know how. We approach confrontation either as something to be avoided, or we rush into it with our fists ready and prepared to win by making sure our "opponent" loses.

Rather than looking at confrontation as an opportunity to beat or get beat, why not consider a hard conversation as the door to a more authentic relationship. I created an acronym that might help you remember how to have a hard conversation that produces good fruit:

M: "May I?" Do you have the relationship capital to have this conversation? Have you ever seen someone jump into a conversation that had no business being there? Well, don't be that person.

O: Identify the obstacles to having this conversation . Do you have history of conflict with the other person or something else that would make this conversation more difficult? Is there something you've always wanted to "get off your chest?" These things could make a difficult conversation more difficult or even impossible.

T: Timing Is this the right time to have the conversation? How long have you needed to have this conversation? If you have let an issue simmer for years, be aware of the negative emotions you could bring if you don't address them with yourself first.

I: Introspective: Related to above, before having a hard conversation with someone else, have one with yourself. What part did you play in any conflict or misunderstanding? Are you willing to admit your part in the difficulty to yourself, and to the other person? If you can't, you aren't ready to have the conversation.

V: Verbal: Words matter. Remember to use "I" statements and not "You" statements. Also remember that posture, facial expressions and eye contact can say much more than words. Prepare to listen to understand and not just to have your say.

E: End Result: What do you expect to come from the conversation: a closer relationship is a great goal. Understanding someone that you don't agree with is also a worthy goal.

Having a difficult conversation may require more courage than you've ever had, but if you are willing to learn how, you could reap the lifelong benefits of more authentic relationships at home and at work.

Michele Aikens is a certified Transitional and Executive Coach. To find out about her services, e-mail her at

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