How to Soften a Tough ConversationMar 30, 2023
Hey, there! AmyK here.
As you all know, I passionately believe that the life you desire is on the other side of a tough conversation.
I also believe in a really good Magical phrase to help you get through that tough conversation.
Here’s a short excerpt from my book GET IT! to help you navigate a tough conversation more brilliantly and empathically – and – it includes one of my all time favorite Magical Phrases.
One of my most favorite one-liners to reduce tension in a tough conversation and lower the other person’s defenses is: “A part of me…"
This phrase is a brilliant way to express a negative emotion you are feeling while simultaneously creating space for other emotions and possible solutions. Whether you’re upset with a partner, frustrated with one of your kids, fed up with an underperformer at work, or dealing with a difficult sibling, it’s important to not speak in absolutes.
When you say, “I’m frustrated” or “I’m disappointed,” the other person hears an absolute. There’s no wiggle room for other emotions. It’s as if you just said, “I’m one hundred percent frustrated” or “I’m one hundred percent disappointed.”
Whereas, when you say,
A part of me is frustrated…
A part of me is disappointed…
you’re communicating that it’s not your only emotion.
You’re also leaving wiggle room for respect, hope, love, and connection.
The next time your teenager misses a curfew, instead of blowing your gasket, respond with:
A part of me is angry that you’re late…
A part of me is disappointed in your choices…
A part of me is very relieved that you are home safe,
and a part of me is angry that you’re late.
A part of me is happy that you have friends to hang with, and a part of me is disappointed in your choice to ignore our agreement.
These phrases communicate to your teen that you are displeased but you haven’t stopped loving her. A bonus consequence of any of these phrases is that they reduce the need for your teen to fight or flee. Absolutes tend to raise tension and incite defensiveness because the other person feels like they have no room to move.
If you say to your teenage daughter, “I’m angry!” she perceives it as, You’re angry? Well, I’m angry, too, about this immature curfew, so let’s get ready to rumble. Or, she may react with the thought, You’re angry? Great, there’s nothing I can do but try to escape your wrath. This thought is then followed by her stomping off and slamming her bedroom door or slinking off and hoping you forget about her existence.
None of these outcomes is desirable nor gets you what you really want, which is to have your daughter come home safe and on time.
When you express one emotion as a part of an overall mix, then there’s room for other emotions too. When you use the phrase, A part of me… , tension de-escalates because you’ve opened the door for other, more positive feelings, and you’ve created space for dialogue instead of defensiveness.
If you’re not ready to talk because you are too upset in the moment or too tired, you may also say:
“A part of me is too tired to have a conversation with you right now. Let’s sit down tomorrow morning. I want to hear about what happened tonight with your friends that caused you to miss your curfew.”
A part of me … also honors the myriad of emotions you are experiencing in response to certain tough life situations. Using this phrase helps you process your grief, stress, and anxiety; regain your equilibrium; and strengthen your resiliency.
Life is messy. It can be tragic. It can be downright cruel. In response to a death, divorce, betrayal, or a significant change in your life, you will experience more than one emotion.
“I’m sad” is not as comprehensive of all you’re going through as, “A part of me is grieving and I feel such loss, and at the same time a part of me is relieved. She was in so much pain.”
“I’m angry!” is not as all-embracing as saying, “A part of me is furious and insulted, and a part of me is stunned and hurt.”
When you get clear on all of the emotions you are experiencing, it is easier to process through them individually. Sorting through each separate sentiment gives you the gift of gaining greater clarity on what it is you now truly need and want.
Over time, your responses and wants will shift. Staying tuned in to your responses will help you heal, process, and move forward as a stronger person.
Consistently checking in with yourself at each phase and stage of a tough experience will help you ask for and get what you need and want.
To taking life one conversation at a time.