5 Steps to Gearing Up for a Tough Conversation

You wake up at 3 a.m. with night sweats, your skin crawls when you think about going in to the office on Monday, and you've had a lump the size of a grapefruit in your stomach all weekend long. Could it be allergies? Menopause? Something you ate?

Or could it be you're about to have a "tough conversation?"

Let's face it, tough conversations are a part of life and you've probably had your share. And it doesn't matter if you or someone else initiates it -- whether you are passed over for a promotion, breaking up with a boyfriend or firing an employee -- it can be painful to endure those tough conversations.

And the human desire to avoid that pain can lead us to some crazy theories:

1. I'll put it off until tomorrow because today I have a headache or it's the Friday before a 3 day weekend or I'll be better "prepared" on Monday. To avoid pain, your brain will convince you it is never the right time.

2. Maybe my colleague would be willing to have the conversation for me - she's better at that stuff than I am. She may be better at it than you are, but what is the price you will pay for passing on those responsibilities to someone else?

3. If I ignore the situation it might go away. We all know this one never works and the pain involved in ignoring is so much worse than the pain of enduring a tough conversation, it's just not worth it.

The old adage; "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," is true. But how close to death do we have to get before we change the way we gear up for a tough conversation? If you spend a bit more time on gearing up, you will change the way your conversations go and there will be less pain. Are you ready?

5 Steps to Gearing Up for a Tough Conversation:

1. Take some time to clarify what you want at the end of the conversation. You may need some kind of a commitment or agreement from the other person. Or, you may need to know that the other person has fully understood what you have to say. Take the time to clarify what you want and write it down.

2. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. What does that person need from the conversation? What is a benefit that he or she could walk away with? You may feel there is no benefit - but think again. There are benefits to all situations if we look for them. Identify some potential benefits for the other person and write them down too.

3. Practice clear communication before you have the conversation. Create a clear statement letting the person know what is happening and why. Adding a lot of explanation, just muddies the water and it creates more pain for the person who is trying to digest a difficult message.

4. Commit to having your conversation serve the highest good for all concerned. There is so much we don't know about why things happen. How often have you heard someone say that a terrible occurrence in their life, turned out to be the "best thing that ever happened?" Set a mental intention to have your conversation serve the highest good for all concerned.

5. Envision a good outcome. Close your eyes and envision the conversation from beginning to end. Imagine it going the way you would like it to go. While it may sound a little "woo-woo," successful athletes and business leaders have been using this technique for years. When we imagine the outcome we want, we replace our fear thoughts and negative self-talk with positive and powerful imagery.

If you go through this checklist you will go forth and tackle that tough conversation with a confident and caring approach. And you may be surprised by the results!