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How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict

For most people, conflict is a source of stress,  and especially so if you are someone who avoids confrontations.

Avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation can hurt your relationships and create other negative outcomes. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you dread discord, but you can learn to dive into these tough talks by reframing your thoughts.

Executive leadership coach and author Joel Garfinkle shares tactics for addressing conflict— at work, at home, or elsewhere.

Begin from a place of curiosity and respect, and stop worrying about being liked. Conflict avoiders are often worried about their likability. While it’s natural to want to be liked, that’s not always the most important thing.

Focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying. People who shy away from conflict often spend a huge amount of time mentally rewording their thoughts. You don’t actually need to talk that much during a difficult conversation. Instead, focus on listening, reflecting, and observing.

Be direct. Address uncomfortable situations head-on by getting right to the point. Have a frank, respectful discussion where both parties speak frankly about the details of an issue. Talking with people honestly and with respect creates mutually rewarding relationships, even when conversations are difficult.

Don’t put it off. How often is your response to conflict something like, “I don’t want to talk about it” or “It’s not that big a deal” or “It’s not worth arguing about”? If you’re always promising yourself that you’ll “bring it up next time it happens,” well, now’s the time. Instead of putting off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with, tackle it right away.

Expect a positive outcome. You’ll struggle to follow this advice if you continue to go into a conflict telling yourself, “This is going to be a disaster.” Instead, tell yourself, “This will result in an improved relationship.”

Focus on the long-term gains that the conversation will create for the relationship.

Excerpted from “How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict” in Harvard Business Review. Read the full article online.

Source: Harvard Business Review | How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict, https://hbr.org/2017/05/how-to-have-difficult-conversations-when-you-dont-like-conflict | Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing

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