Saying Hard Things

Saying Hard Things

Speak up about things that matter to you. Don’t let things fester, but also be sure you can talk to the person about your concerns in a respectful way that builds relationship and community.

Reflect on the situation in advance. 

  • If you need to, talk to one other person to develop some reasonable next steps or brainstorm with them how to approach the situation.
  • Clarify what you need from the person and why. What is the core need you are trying to get met? What are you asking from the person?
  • Approach the situation as peers. Don’t be condescending.
  • Get in touch with what you value, respect, and care for in the person.
  • Think about your own boundaries and limits.
  • Make room for their perspective and boundaries.
  • Consider what barriers might stand in the way of them meeting your request.
  • Think in terms of finding a workable solution where everyone’s needs get met, not about criticism or punishment. Be creative!

Respect differences in how folks communicate. Check in with one another about what works best. Some people consider written communication passive aggressive, while others consider it to be the most effective way to communicate. When in doubt, ask.

  • If someone needs time to process before having a hard conversation, that’s okay!
    • The person who needs time should: 
      • Make a commitment to having the conversation within a certain time period.
      • Not let it go so long that the other person feels unwelcome/uncomfortable.
    • It helps for the other person to let them know, “I’m here when you’re ready,” and allow them some space to process.
  • If someone has very strong feelings, that’s okay!
    • Everyone has a right to their feelings, including anger.
    • Each person also has the right to ask another person to express their feelings in a way that builds relationship.
    • If you’re so overwhelmed you think you might do something that will break down relationship, you could:
      • Remove yourself from the situation. (It will probably help build relationship if you communicate about why you needed to do this once you feel less overwhelmed.)
      • Ask for some time and space to process.

Have the conversation in person/over zoom  and in a private, calm environment.

Be solution-oriented as much as you can be. How do we move forward in a good way?

Be realistic about what you can ask of a person.

Believe in the person’s ability and willingness to change.

Use “I” statements and be nonjudgmental. Don’t make assumptions.

Give the person the opportunity to voice their perspective and listen without interruption. “Nobody’s a turkey for the fun of it”—there are reasons for everyone’s actions. However, if a person has caused harm, don’t collude by letting them off the hook (“empathetic enabling”). Compassion and love mean holding one another accountable in a way that strengthens relationships and builds community.

Follow up later to see how things are going, before the next issue arises.

Practice, practice, practice. Ask the person you gave feedback how they felt—what went well and what didn’t? What might work better next time?

Saying Hard Things

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