Navigating Difficult Conversations

Vanessa Bennett
6 min readMar 7, 2018

You would think, as a therapist and someone who has been actively doing self work for about 10 years, difficult conversations would be easy for me. Surprise! They’re not. I would venture to say they aren’t for most people, hence being called “difficult,” in the first place.

When working with clients, I have many communication tips I share with them as they struggle with and prepare themselves for difficult conversations they need to have with friends, family, partners, coworkers etc., (I’ll give a few below). Every person is so unique with different triggers and sensitivities, different past experiences, communication skill, technique and approach. Plus, we’re all human, so of course we accidentally hurt people’s feelings (and maybe even sometimes on purpose), so wouldn’t it make sense that many intimate or serious conversations are difficult to navigate?

Photographer:Ana Paula Lima

The funny thing is, in my experience, and what I see in working with others, the build up to the conversation is usually far worse than the talk itself. The agonizing over the details, when to approach them, how they may react, what you might have to counter with. All imaginary scenarios obviously, since we are not able to predict how another person is going to act or react. The anxiety we cause ourselves reminds me of the slow peeling off of a Band-Aid. Pulling out tiny hairs one at a time.

I wonder if you can try and notice when you find yourself building up or playing an imaginary scenario in your head on loop. It’s like watching a movie. You can always turn off the movie and come back to reality, if you practice your mindfulness skills. Ground your feet on the floor and bring your attention to the present. Sounds, sights, physical feelings happening in real life; not on the movie screen in your head.

Reminds me of this meme…

The only real thing you have control over is how you approach the conversation and how you hold yourself. A friend who is in recovery told me one of the tenants of AA is to “keep your side of the fence clean.” I love this and try to remind myself of it regularly as it really applies to all areas of life. It is all you…

Vanessa Bennett

Psychotherapist, Mindfulness + Codependency Coach. Cohost of the Cheaper Than Therapy Podcast. IG:vanessasbennett