How do you Start a Hard Conversation? Clumsily.

by | Jun 29, 2023

She made a comment that set off an internal cringe. Her explanation of the comment, with full confidence and determination of proving her theory brought the slow rise of the internal double middle-finger. Then she asked a question…and that set me over. Full shut down. Full numb. Full only action I wanted to take was to slam that red “End Call” button on Zoom and be done with her. 

Since I’m good at letting things go, I immediately moved on and didn’t think about it or talk about the situation to anyone or I totally did both of those things because her comments really cut, hurt, and frustrated me. I’m getting back to trusting my gut, and my gut was yelling aww–hell-no-that-wasn’t-right. 

In the few chats I had with friends to deflate my balloon and in the weeks that passed between that call and our regularly scheduled biweekly chats, I had some time to process. The initial flare-up cooled off, and I thought about our history, and chances were her intention was not to have her thoughts impact me in the way they did. But…intention aside, those words hit me hard and hurt me. In this case, impact > intention. 

We hopped on our scheduled Zoom call, and after a few opening pleasantries, I started in. If you’ve been to my Connected Conversations Framework Workshop, you’re probably thinking, “Oh yes, Erin. Tell us how you invited her in, then shared the impact, and got her side of the story!” 

Reality sounded more like this. 

Umm, ahh, yeah. I’m I have something to say and I don’t know how to say it but I’m going to just try and wheeeeeewww (the sound of a 20-second exhale) I mean it’s just that OK right I’m just going to say it or maybe I can try to say it and it might not come out right so just let me start and I might start over or correct myself and then we can just go from there. OK, are you ready? 

SMOOTH AS SILK, I TELL YA!  Or scratchy as 3-day stubble. 

Perhaps if I HAD used the Framework it would have rolled off my tongue better. (Kind of embarrassed to admit I forgot to use my own helpful tool!) 

But maybe not. 

Because here’s the deal with these emotionally charged, potentially uncomfortable conversations. We can have a Framework. We can prepare and fill in the blanks and outline it…and that does help. 

But there is no template. There is no script. Sometimes there’s no time to whip out the workbook. There is no perfect way to enter into these convos. The important thing: to enter into the convos. 

Start. Say hey, I might not get this right. 

Hey, this is hard for me, I’ve got some emotions that are going on. 

Hey, can I get it out once and maybe try again?

Hey, can we talk through something that I’ve got some feelings around, that I’m working through? 

What are they going to say? NO, GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. Of course not. 

Instead, chances are their grace meter will perk up. Their willingness to understand will engage. They’ll probably listen and make you feel heard more than usual, because they know something is coming that sounds important. 

It’s OK to bumble. It’s OK to ask for some grace. It’s OK to say this is new and hard for me and I’m trying. 

After my bumble and mumble, I did articulate what was going on, what I was feeling, and why I was feeling that way. She got it immediately. Genuinely apologized. Thanked ME for having the courage to bring it to her attention. Then explained her previous point in a way that made so much sense, brought me so much clarity, and resonated so hard. 

That’s why we engage. That’s why we lean into these tough convos. That’s why we say what we gotta say. We don’t know what the outcome will be. We can’t control that. We can control our response, even if it’s not that smooth. Your outcome might be just like mine: a stronger, more trusted relationship that I was going to call off, and now am all in on. 


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