Difficult conversations


January 16th, 2014

Summer, and holiday time, is a great time to people watch. Families and friends find time to get together. This past twelve months I’ve had two summers – one in the UK and now here in Australia. I’m interested in how people interact. I love listening to people talking in a language I don’t know and trying to imagine what they’re talking about; or someone having an argument on a mobile phone (often very loudly, so hard to ignore – don’t judge me) and imagining the other half of the conversation.

And I have some friends who say everything they are thinking out loud. I’ve tried doing this and just can’t. I simply can’t talk that much. But, oh, the conversations I have in my head – they’re a different matter. Do you have those? The ones where you imagine the conversation you’ll have with another person, especially if it’s about something a bit tricky or difficult? Often, these conversations never get a life – they remain in my head, albeit they’re very active and animated. When it comes to actually having a difficult conversation, it stays in my head where it’s much safer than taking the risk of saying what I wish I had the courage to say.

My friend Johnnie Moore is really good at helping people with difficult conversations. He likes to get people out of their heads and into their bodies – what this means is getting away from theorising what a difficult conversation might be like, and actually practice experiencing it – doing lots of short iterations to see what feels okay and what doesn’t. Then, when it comes to having the difficult conversation for real, you’re already prepared and ready for whatever might happen. After all, we are only ever responsible for one half of the interaction (in my head, I always know what the other person will say – shock horror, they don’t act that way in real life!)

We all have difficult conversations from time to time. Some we know are coming (and if you’re like me, avoid), others creep up on us, and yet others pounce when we least expect it. It pays to be ready, no matter what. Johnnie has started a video series about difficult conversations. Well worth a look.

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