4 Tips for Surviving Tough Conversations

An excerpt from Step Into Your Moxie, Alexia Vernon

When you do have your daring conversations, show up knowing that the only thing you can control is — how you show up. What you say. Whether you react (by immediately acting from your feelings) or respond (by observing how you are feeling and then intentionally deciding what you want to do about it). Really, this is something to remember in all communication moments. For the sad truth is, someone in our professional or personal lives can unfortunately lash out at us when we least expect it — or when we do expect it but are nonetheless not verbally prepared for it.

Having had enough daring conversations in my life to have a PhD in them, what I know is that the best ones are always when I walk away proud of my behavior — regardless of how the conversations ended. And, of course, the more I show up, speak, and behave from a place of compassionate vulnerability, the better the conversations usually (but not always) go.

1. Use direct communication to establish your agenda and the ways you are committed to behaving.

It’s easy to assume that because the blood coursing through your veins has volcanic potential, surely everybody you’re speaking with knows what you’re there to talk about. That’s not always the case. State your reasons for wanting to chat, and your priorities, and set a daring-conversation tone by sharing the kind of communication you are committed to putting forward. When you model daring behavior, you set up everyone else to go daring too.

2. Ask other parties for their input.

Daring conversations are cocreated. While you might be taking the lead (because you are someone who unapologetically steps into her moxie), after you share what you want, be sure to give space for others to share as well.

3. Share your story, and ask about others’ points of view.

You set up the conversation, so despite how uncomfortable it may feel, you need to tell your version of events (or your point of view on a current situation) to move the conversation forward. Once you survive the initial discomfort of speaking up, you are curious (yes, I possess some bias here; I want you to be curious), and therefore, it’s time to ask how the other person (or people) sees what has happened.

4. Choose tone and nonverbal body language that demonstrate your commitment to maintaining respect and promoting genuine understanding.

You want to use facial expressions, gestures, and posture (particularly when you are listening and receiving information that triggers emotion from you) that keep the conversation daring. If you feel your mouth and jaw contorting into RBF (yes, that’s resting bitch face), use your breath to relax. If you feel your shoulders collapsing in, or climbing an imaginary ladder up to your ears, use your breath to relax. If your legs are wrapped around each other like peanut butter searching for its jelly, yup, use your breath to relax.

The more I show up, speak, and behave from a place of compassionate vulnerability, the better the conversations usually (but not always) go.

As you move into sharing your respective truths, identify misunderstandings and what you have learned. As your conversation progresses, and you realize that what you so clearly thought was spaghetti was asparagus soup for the other party, take responsibility for your role in what has happened. And more important, declare how you are committed to moving forward. (This does not mean going bunny and apologizing for something you believe, or know!, you did not do. This means going cheetah and owning legitimate mistakes when you make them — or your part in situations where you see you could have done better.)

Discuss creative ways for playing nicely together in the future. A daring conversation, in my book, which this is, gets the stamp of success when all parties are able to get along with each other during the conversation, cocreate the space to speak what needs to be shared and moved through, and walk away clear on their roles in maintaining the peace in the future. I strive never to end a daring conversation until I’ve said everything I prepared to communicate, and I’ve asked, and everyone involved has answered, “How do we ensure we never need to have this particular conversation again?”

About Alexia

Alexia Vernon is the author of Step into Your Moxie. Branded a “Moxie Maven” by President Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement, she is a sought-after speaking and leadership coach who delivers transformational keynotes and corporate trainings for Fortune 500 companies and other professional groups and organizations, including the United Nations and TEDx.

Visit her online at www.alexiavernon.com.

Excerpted from the book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World. Copyright ©2018 by Alexia Vernon. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.