We all get resentments toward people around us, and when we do, it can be hard to sit down and have those uncomfortable talks. Looking another person in the eyes and telling them what they are doing is bothering you or admitting that you haven't been acting in a way you are proud of can be hard to do if we don't have a plan to do it reasonably, and mutually. As uncomfortable as these talks are, they are worth it if they can save a relationship with a friend or family member.
We can do things to make these talks easier for the other person and us. So, here are some tips for handling these awkward talks productively and positively.
Before We Even Have the Conversation
These talks can be anxiety-inducing and overall just icky feeling, but it helps to take time and make sure our intentions are clear, and we know what the goal of the conversation is. Often we assume we know why the other person did what they did. Try and clear what you think from your mind so that when they tell you their side of the story and you can be ready to hear that instead of just assuming you know best and walking away without anything changing.
It can be helpful to set aside a time and place to have this problematic talk. When thinking of a location, it's useful if the area is not in public. You don't want to be distracted by people around you or be worried that others are listening in on you while you are vulnerable. When you invite the person, you want to make sure that you are clear that you want to have this talk. Otherwise, the other person may feel ambushed. You could tell them, "hey, ___ I've noticed a tension between us about ___, would you be able to meet at my house around 8 to clear the air?". Warning the other person gives them the opportunity to think about there perspective on the situation so that they can be ready to talk about what is bothering them. Often if you spring a hard conversation on someone with no warning, they will become defensive, and they may throw excuses out, so it's better if you give the other party time to process things.
Time to Have a Hard Talk
Bringing up the topic can be scary. We frequently fear how the other person will react and if they will still like us after we bring this up. Remember, we are looking for a solution to save the relationship. If you don't have this talk, the feelings you are having won't go away. They will only get worse. So the first thing you need to do is state what upset you. Try and use specific examples and make it clear how you felt in those examples. Avoid using extremes such as "you always" or "you never." Have the mindset that you are going to fix this together.
You need to know the difference between what the other person's intentions were vs. how it impacted you. Likely, their plans were not to hurt. That doesn't change the fact that what they did DID hurt you. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt can go along way in helping to resolve the conflict. It is still essential that you let them know that their actions did hurt you, but it's equally important to let them know that you are aware that they likely not their intention. A simple way of phrasing this is "when you did ___ it made me feel like ____, I don't think this was what you meant to do, but I need you to know how it made me feel so we can clear the air."
Listen to what they are saying.
After you explain the way you felt, you should ask for their version of the events. Listen to what they are saying, and after they've finished, acknowledge what they've said. "What I heard you say way ___."
Own your part. If the other party has said that you did something that made them feel bad, take ownership of that, acknowledge what was said, and apologize for your role in that conflict. Owning your part could be as simple as saying, "when you did ___, I was hurt, so I was defensive for a few days, and I see how that could add strain to our relationship. I should have been up-front with you that I was hurt at that moment." Even if they don't mention anything you did, it's not a bad idea to let them know that there are ways you could have handled the situation better. Identify a few examples of your part in this before you have the conversation.
Come to a Solution
Ask them for ideas and listen to what they say and don't interrupt them. When you tell them your ideas for a solution, make sure to use we/us rather than me/you. Promise to try harder in the future and move on.
These conversations don't always go the way we want them to go. If it starts to feel like an argument, don't be afraid to tell them that you don't feel comfortable talking to them when emotions are running this hot. You can reschedule and come back to it later.
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