Seth and Sami consistently butt heads over how to move their work forward. Sami knows they need to talk, and that the conversation will be emotional and contentious. This discussion needs to happen, so that she and Seth get past their issues to make progress on their project. What’s the best way forward? How do you prepare for a tough discussion?

Prepare, don’t stew.  Over-rehearsing, rehashing grievances in your mind or airing your frustrations with other people will not prepare you for civil discourse. Instead, focus on how you’ll stay open-minded. Make a plan for managing your emotions, listening and choosing positive behaviors (even if the other person does not).

Plan the location. Make sure the spot is safe, neutral and private.

Own your own stuff. Every situation involving humans is complicated. Only in the movies is one party clearly wrong and another completely right. Figure out your biases and ways you’ve contributed to the conflict. Admit those openly and early in the discussion.

Stay focused on the future. You have mutual goals to accomplish, and those should be the driving force behind resolving the issues at hand. The past is only a useful topic if it is impacting your ability to work together.

Be thoughtful and deliberate in your planning so you don’t blurt out the first things that come to your mind. Planning means you’ll be less likely to try to change the other person, which ironically can make it easier for them to do so. Douglas Stone, an expert in difficult conversations, says people “are more likely to change if they think we understand them and if they feel heard and respected. They are more likely to change if they feel free not to.”


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