How to maintain your composure during a difficult conversation.
Let’s be honest – when 2021 began, there were two things that people could not get off their minds (or out of their conversations): politics and the COVID-19 vaccine.
The other day, I went on a walk with two very close friends of mine. These friends are both beautiful, intelligent, and strong women. However, they don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to current events.
During our walk, a conversation regarding our newest president came up, and I could tell that it was destined to turn into a difficult conversation. Almost immediately, I noticed that the demeanor of both these women shifted: wide eyes, defensive stances, raised voices.
When confronted with a difficult conversation such as this, I like to say:
“We all have boogers, and I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t force me to eat yours.”
The way we are having conversations about and reacting to the current political climate can ruin relationships. I have always felt that difficult conversations are important, but consider your timing. “Right now” might not be the best time to have that conversation. Here are a few things to think about:
THE WOUND IS STILL FRESH.
Tensions are high, people are confused, and the world is changing. This last election and the news of the COVID-19 vaccine brought the best, and the worst, out of everyone, and this country is very clearly divided. On one end of the spectrum, there are people who are very passionate about what they believe, and they are ready to talk, argue, discuss, etc. But there’s another side to this: the person who would rather avoid the difficult conversation out of fear of losing respect for others or damaging a relationship.
WATCH FOR THE SHUTDOWN.
People wear their hearts on their sleeves. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and eyes. Ask yourself: will this difficult conversation be a healthy conversation?
The different cues of a shutdown: people stop talking, stop making eye contact, and nod or give signals that they’re listening when they’re really not.
If a difficult conversation becomes heated, it will be hard for each person to see both sides. Sometimes you need to remember that nothing you say is going to change their mind if they begin to shut down – the only option here is to damage the relationship.
HAVE A NEW TOPIC READY.
If you find yourself swept up in a difficult conversation and you’d rather not be involved, try to change the conversation. Try to have a new topic ready to switch gears and keep the positive energy flowing through the conversation. If the person you’re conversing with tries to continue the difficult conversation, be honest and explain that you’re not comfortable speaking about this and you’d like to talk about something else.
At the end of the day, difficult conversations will happen, and it’s up to you whether or not you choose to engage in them. After stating our boundaries, my friends and I were able to have a respectful conversation about politics and we learned a lot about each other and navigating difficult conversations.