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Strategies for Getting Ready for Challenging Dialogues

A client, whom we’ll refer to as Gina, found herself in a dilemma over an impending conversation with her mother. She was overwhelmed by the fear of potential outcomes and worst-case scenarios that might arise from the discussion.

Lately, Gina’s relationship with her mother had been strained. Her mother’s unpredictable behavior, oscillating between moments of affection and bursts of anger, was taking a toll on Gina. The daily conversations were increasingly draining, prompting Gina to consider reducing them to allocate more time and energy to her family, work, and mental well-being. However, the apprehension of initiating this conversation was holding her back.

Gina’s situation is a common one. Difficult conversations often get postponed due to their sensitive nature and the uncertainty of how they might unfold. The tendency to overanalyze various scenarios can lead to procrastination.

Preparing for such challenging discussions can be approached in numerous ways. One effective method involves identifying and prioritizing “The Three Priorities”: your objective, the relationship at stake, and your self-respect. In Gina’s case, her primary objective was to create space for herself by reducing the time spent on conversations with her mother. Despite this, she valued the relationship and was concerned about how her request would affect her mother. Additionally, maintaining her self-respect meant aligning her actions with her values of health and balance, and expressing her needs assertively yet compassionately.

During our discussion, Gina acknowledged that she typically prioritized the other person’s feelings and the relationship over her own needs. However, this time, she recognized that her well-being was paramount. Feeling overwhelmed by her hectic schedule and chronic stress, Gina realized the importance of self-care to show up fully in her interactions with others.

When the objective takes precedence, it is crucial to practice assertiveness and communicate needs vulnerably. For Gina, accustomed to neglecting her own needs, this shift felt uncomfortable and challenging.

Drawing from Nonviolent Communication principles developed by Marshall Rosenberg, we practiced a structured format: Facts/Observations + Feelings/Needs + Request. This format encourages clarity, assertiveness, and connection during conversations, reducing the likelihood of defensiveness or blame. Gina’s request centered around her need for rest and self-care, proposing a revised schedule for their phone calls.

Despite her initial nervousness, Gina felt empowered and prepared to have the conversation after clarifying her priorities, determining her message, and rehearsing it.

If you seek compassionate and practical advice, feel free to share your questions or situations for consideration in future columns.

Tiffany Skidmore, a mental health and anxiety specialist, offers supportive guidance as a life coach. For inquiries or anonymous submissions, please email . Explore more about Tiffany’s expertise at .