“Sometimes we get so carried away trying to be right that we forget to be kind.”
Author: Lauren Michelle
Editor: Rachele Blick
Cover Photo by: Christian Ladinos
Tough Conversations Are A Part of Life
In the last few weeks, we have rallied together to ignite a passion within ourselves to recognize the deep need for reform and healing in our society. In addition to current conversations about policy reform and social justice, we have tough conversations all the time. In moments where we disagree, we can either shut down or use the conversation as an opportunity to grow and better ourselves. We have disagreements in work life, romantic relationships, friendships, parent-child relationships, and more.
We all have life experiences, opinions, and worldviews that will be different from someone else. However, we can use those differences to build community and share perspectives rather than discount those differences and avoid the uncomfortable.
When disagreements occur, it is healthier to engage with that person rather than excluding them entirely. Instead of ignoring a problem, let’s talk about some ways to create healthy dialog and communication with each other.
9 Ways to Turn a Disagreement into a Great Conversation
1. Pray for God’s wisdom and direction for the conversation
You can never go wrong when you invite God to the table. Check your heart before inviting someone to meet with you and discuss a disagreement. If your motive of the conversation is to argue or belittle the other person, then you need to humble yourself and calm down. Be willing to listen, and be willing to be wrong. The point of working out a disagreement or misunderstanding is to find common ground, get clarity on the issue, and move forward in the relationship. When I start a hard conversation with prayer, I immediately feel peace and less anxious to continue.
2. Research what you are talking about from credible sources
Educate yourself on why you feel the way you do. This might require reading the context of the Bible, listening to pastors or leaders in the field of the topic, or understanding your personal experiences. Why does the disagreement matter so much? How can you be a part of creating positive change?
3. Find a time to meet and chat
It is very important to have these tough conversations either in person or on a phone call. It is very difficult to understand intention, body language, expressions, or intent through text messages. Also, it needs to be a spontaneous dialog that challenges you to think in the moment and respond appropriately. Texting allows you to draw and edit what you are going to say (that’s not how real life works).
4. Actively listen to understand not listen to respond
This goes back to preparing your heart for the conversation. You are here in this moment to learn and hear someone else share information or an experience that matters to them. While the other person is talking, listen to what they are saying instead of formulating a rebuttal.
5. Practice conversational empathy
According to this article from a UC Berkeley magazine, empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is essential to interpersonal communication. You might not have a shared life experience with the other person, but you can relate to the feelings they are sharing and try to understand their point of view.
6. Be aware of triggers and emotional points of the conversation
If the conversation begins to escalate or detract from the desire to productively discuss the situation at hand, then take a step back and reassess. The conversation should be honest, but never hateful or hurtful. Some disagreements can relate to a person’s identity or community, so it is important to approach those conversations with care and an open mind.
7. Thank the other person for their time and for being willing to meet and talk with you
Before ending the conversation, ask the other person if there is anything that you missed. Give them the opportunity to express any last thoughts of how to move forward or if there are any lingering issues they need clarity on. Showing appreciation is so underrated these days, but it can instantly make someone feel valued and heard.
8. End on a positive note
A few examples of this could be ending the conversation with a compliment or the biggest takeaway you learned from the conversation. Maybe plan to do something fun later that is relaxing like going out to dinner or going to a movie! Meaningful relationships are built through these challenging conversations as well as fun shared experiences. If the conversation happened at work, maybe plan to have a potluck at work or find something to boost the office morale.
9. Create one or two reasonable next steps to move forward
Set clear expectations if something needs to change moving forward, develop a compromise, or plan how to have more tough conversations in the future. These conversations are so important to expand and build the relationship and your own worldview. Find ways you can diversity your friend group, get involved with serving others, or research more on the topic of the disagreement discussion.
I hope these tips were helpful for you! Confrontation does not have to be a scary or emotionally-charged experience. We have to be brave enough to speak up when we feel hurt or see injustice in our communities. We need to be aware of our own prejudices and work to develop understanding within ourselves before we can make a positive difference in the world around us.
If you have tips you’d like to share about navigating tough conversations or disagreements, please share in the comments! Thanks for reading!
Petit à Petit,
Video example of how to navigate a conversation about race and the Church. These men demonstrate how to share experiences and point the conversation towards productive action and healing. Full Episode on TBN is here.
My post on Vulnerability