8 Tips on How to have a Difficult Conversation

Group Conversation - Seniors Today
To help minimise the discomfort of stressful conversations step by step

In India there has been a steady breakdown in the joint family systems and friction within family members is common. Seniors, parents, siblings, children, relatives, and even friends. There comes a time when you need to have a difficult conversation.

Difficult conversations are hard but often necessary. Discussing money, living arrangements or relationships is stressful for many people, especially seniors. It may seem easier to simply ignore the problem or postpone the conversation, but this rarely benefits you or your recipient. To help minimise the discomfort and make these discussions more approachable. Here are 8 tips to help you ease the stress.


  1. Plan ahead – Before you confront someone, it’s best to know what you want to talk about and what you want to come from it. Think about what you intend to say, how to say it and how to anticipate how they may respond. This way, you will find it easier to communicate well under pressure, even if you’re feeling flustered.
  1. Think of the consequences – Very often if you are discussing life-affecting situations think of the consequences before you venture into having a conversation. Is this going to be a family separation? Is it going to be a living arrangement between you and your children or you and your brothers, cousins? Property issues…look into all aspects and effects that could be the outcome of such a conversation. Very often separation or property, money, businesses – cannot be don’t at one time but if you have a plan and envisage what could be the result of such a conversation. Hand has identified the multiple options that could result of such a conversation. You would be in a much stronger position to talk.
  1. Be direct – Don’t be afraid to get to the point quickly. As much as beating around the bush may seem like the easier option, it can convolute your intentions and confuse both you and the person you’re speaking with. However difficult it is best to say what to want to say straight.
  1. Say what you mean – when you’re under pressure, it’s easy to say things you don’t mean. A word that slips out at the wrong moment could easily offend or hurt someone. To avoid this, it’s important to be patient with yourself, and the other person, to ensure you have the time you need to speak clearly. Hear what the other side has to say. It will help you recoup your thoughts.
  1. Be Specific – Clarity is key. Make it clear why you are having the conversation. Give the person clear and specific examples to back up your point. Try to ensure that you are on the same page early on about what you are discussing and why you are discussing it. This will make it easier for both of you.
  1. Don’t lose your temper stay steady – Don’t lose your temper and don’t let your emotions drive you. If you have a strong personal relationship with this person, it can be easy for your feelings towards them to affect you at the moment. This can be particularly true when talking to people you care for, even if you think the difficult conversation is for their own good. It may be worthwhile writing in advance a list of reasons why the conversation is important so that it is easier to remember the details. Remember getting across to the other person calmly will eventually help to find a solution.
  1. Be empathetic – Allow the person time to talk and to process their emotions. It can help to be honest with people, to let them know exactly where you are coming from and that you are finding the conversation difficult too. Saying things such as “This is a really hard conversation to have” and “I don’t want this conversation to impact our relationship” can help to make you both feel more comfortable by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation.
  1. Suggest solutions – If someone feels that they have been cornered with no way to escape, they are likely to be defensive. To avoid this, try to think of realistic solutions before the conversation. If possible, offer at least two. This way, the person is more likely to comply.


The most important thing in a difficult conversation is not just to plan ahead what you are going to say but also to envisage what is the solution that the other person could opt for. That will give them an easy way out and ensure a smooth transition. Remember all this what you aim to achieve may not happen at one go and there could be a few more sessions but keeping calm and avoiding a fight will be easy to get your point across.

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