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Navigating Difficult Conversations

A couple weeks ago, the leadership team from Bridgehaven attended a simulcast of the Global Leadership Summit. We heard from some amazing speakers and leaders in our world today. The topics were thought-provoking and even convicting on a personal level.

Sheila Heen is the author of a book called Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Throughout her session, she shared a lot of wonderful pieces to take into consideration when entering into a difficult conversation. I know difficult conversations are not something the majority of people feel comfortable entering into, but they tend to happen much more than we anticipate. Whether it is in our professional or personal lives, we have all either gone into a conversation we knew would be difficult before it even began, or been in the middle of one that you suddenly realize is turning into a much more challenging one than you had originally expected.

I wanted to share just a few bullet point notes with you which really stood out to me, shedding some light on how you are currently viewing difficult conversations, with the hope of bringing about some potential perspective change.

We all have an internal voice.

  • We need to become aware of our internal voices and what it is doing during a difficult conversation since it has the potential to speak very loudly!
  • When we are choosing to listen ONLY to our internal voice, then there are two different conversations happening and suddenly no one is being the listener in a conversation when we get too preoccupied by our internal voice

Every difficult conversation has the same underlying structure.

The What Happened Conversation…

  • Who’s right?
  • Whose fault is it?
  • Why is the other person acting this way?

The Feelings Conversation…

  • Difficult conversations can uncover conflicting and complex feelings

The Identity Conversation…

  • At the deepest level, it is our identity that fuels our strong emotions in a difficult conversation.
  • We conduct an internal debate over whether this means we are competent or incompetent, a good person or bad, worthy of love or unlovable.
  • What impact might it have on our self-image and self-esteem, our future and our well-being?

Some questions to ask yourself during a difficult conversation:

  • Why do we see this differently?
  • What have we each contributed to the situation? (There are usually multiple contributors.)
  • Am I talking to/at, or am I talking with?

We need to separate intentions from impact.

  • What is the impact I’m worried about?

There were so many amazing pieces throughout her talk which shed some light on personally convicting things to consider in my prayer time. It provided insight into how I can continue to be an even better listener in conversations, and to consider what my identity is showing me, or what I am believing about my identity when I am having strong emotions stem from a challenging conversation. I know this is not always the most fun, or even easy to personally reflect on how we are doing in this area of our lives. However, it is something that can incredibly transform the ways in which these conversations will happen when we take a more active role in becoming better. These difficult conversations are inevitable, and my prayer for all of us is that we choose and desire to become a better version of ourselves and the roles in which we play in these conversations.