Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

How to Get What You Need From a Tough Conversation

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Tough conversations can wear the strongest of warriors down – but they don’t have to. Here’s how to get want you want from a tough conversation, without damage or argument. (This skill is like a little bit of magic!)


The Take-Aways

  • In any relationship, there comes a point, probably many points, when you have to have tough conversations about something you need.
  • It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the only way to respond to this is in one of two ways – say nothing and keep going as though nothing has happened, or ask aggressively for what you need. The problem with keeping quiet is that  it might be looking after the other person, but it can be really unhealthy for you. It’s also likely to be unhealthy for the relationship because eventually, that need that you have will keep pushing for attention. That can end with an explosion, a huge argument, or someone just walking away from the relationship. The problem with being aggressive and screaming for what you need this is that it puts the other person into the position where they have to defend themselves or shut down to protect themselves. That makes it less likely you’ll be heard.
  • In any relationship, the more you push against someone, the more likely it is that they’ll push back. This is because we humans always need balance, to keep ourselves from toppling over in any relationship. 
  • A powerful way to maximise your chances of getting what you want is to yield a little. This doesn’t mean agreeing or giving in. It means is giving the other person a little bit of what they need, so they are more open to giving you what you need. It means acknowledging, validating and compromising, and letting the other person know that you want to find a resolution that will work for both of you.
  • This can be really difficult, especially if they’ve done something that’s upset you, but remember, this is about getting you what you need.
  • For example, if you’re wanting to talk to your parents about a party you’d like to go to, try to start the conversation by acknowledging what they might need. More than likely, with parents, whatever they do is done from love and the need to keep you safe. Start by acknowledging this with something like, “I get that you don’t want me to go to the party because you’re worried I won’t be safe, I really get that.” Then you come in with something to show you’re open to compromise, “What if I promised to be home by a certain time?”
  • This doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but by yielding you’re more likely to get more of what you want more of the time. 
  • The more open you can be to the other person’s view, – and remember, that doesn’t mean agreeing with it, it means being open to it, listening to it, acknowledging it – the more likely it is that you will get more of what you want.

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