Having difficult conversations

Sometimes it can feel like every conversation that you have ends up in a vicious circle. You then start to feel stressed and your body releases lots of chemicals that can affect how you think and you might start feeling angry or feel like running away. If this sounds like the sort of thing that happens to you, try using the following techniques:

Reduce your stress levels

  • Relax your shoulders
  • Take deep breaths and deliberately breathe more slowly, this helps to change the stress chemicals that your body is making and can help you to feel calmer
  • When things get heated don’t wait for the other person to calm down, suggest taking a break
  • If you both can’t calm down then:

– stop the discussion
– suggest you find a better time for it. If possible, in a neutral place that is away from your child.

Listen to what is being said

  • Actively listen – the more you listen the more you hear
  • Try to focus so your attention isn’t divided
  • Show respect – if you show more respect this is more likely to be reciprocated
  • Leave pauses, don’t jump into one
  • Try to stay calm even if you don’t feel calm.

Respond in a non-confrontational way. Be clear, stick to the point and respect the other person.

  • Avoid changing the subject or interrupting unnecessarily
  • Explore the other person’s views, ask questions

Take ownership for what you say

  • Use ‘I’ statements
  • Phrase things in a way that it is about what you think or have noted or want, not what you assume or ‘know’ the other person does.

For example:

“I feel angry when you ask me about money in front of the children.”

Rather than…

“You always try to stir things up by asking about money. You know I hate it.”

Try using the method below to express yourself:

  • State what has happened without blaming, criticising or judging
  • Say how you feel when you see or hear what has happened
  • Say what you need to happen
  • Ask for a change.

Think about your own examples – it may help to write them down:

I feel… when you…
and I’d like you to…

If this doesn’t work try a slightly different way of expressing what you want to say…

“When WE talk about money in front of the children IT turns into a problem” “Can WE talk about it at another time?”

Offer – “When would be good for you?”

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