How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict


Avoiding or delaying a difficult conversation can hurt your relationships and create other negative outcomes. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you dread discord, but you can learn to dive into these tough talks by reframing your thoughts. 

1. Begin from a place of curiosity and respect, and stop worrying about being liked. While it’s natural to want to be liked, that’s not always the most important thing. Lean into the conversation. 

2. Focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying. People who shy away from conflict often spend a huge amount of time mentally rewording their thoughts. Although it might feel like useful preparation, ruminating over what to say can hijack your mind for the entire workday and sometimes even late into the night. Tough conversations are rarely planned anyway, take the pressure off yourself. Instead, focus on listening, reflecting, and observing. 

3. Be direct. Address uncomfortable situations head-on by getting right to the point. Have frank, respectful discussion where both parties speak frankly about the details of an issue. Talking with people honestly and with respect creates mutually rewarding relationships, even when conversations are difficult. 

4. Don’t put it off. How often is your response to conflict something like, “I don’t have to talk about it” or “It’s not big a deal” or “It’s not worth arguing about”? If you’re always promising you’ll “bring it up time next time when it happens:’ well, now’s the time. Don’t put it off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with now, tackle it right away. Get your cards on the table so you can resolve the issue and move on. 

5. Expect a positive outcome. You’ll struggle to follow this advice if you continue to go into a conflict telling yourself, “This is going to be a disaster?’ Instead, tell yourself, “This will lead to an improved relationship” Focus on long-term gains the conversation will create for the relationship.