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Prepare to Engage: Minimizing Anxiety for Hard Conversations

Posted on Feb 03 2017 under Blog Posts

entrepreneur-593358_1920Many of us are conflict avoiders typically avoid because the idea of engaging in a dispute fills us with anxiety. You don’t know how to manage the conversation once it starts and in your past experiences conflict has often had negative results. After I had begun the Negotiation and Conflict Management program at the University of Baltimore, I learned the technique of preparation before a conflict. Preparing for an uncomfortable conversation before it happens is an easy way to minimize anxiety that many people feel about conflict.

Why is preparation an essential ingredient for a hard conversation to go smoothly?

  1. Preparing allows you to be mindful of your fears and anxieties. Acknowledging your frame of mind about the conflict can assist you in re-framing it in a more positive light.
  2. Preparing allows you to format what you want to say and edit to remove any language that could cause the other person to get defensive or take offense.
  3. Preparing also provides you the opportunity to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and anticipate what their responses might be.
  4. Preparing allows you to focus on what you need and want from the conversation and have an end goal in mind.

For example, you need to have a talk with your roommate about cleaning. You don’t like conflict and often feel your roommate gets upset quickly, and you end up giving up because you don’t want to ruin the relationship.

The first thing you need to do is sit down and outline what you ultimately need and want from this discussion. You need your roommate to contribute more to the cleaning of the house. You feel that since she has started her new job, you are constantly the one cleaning.

You don’t want your roommate to get upset or feel attacked so the next step would be to write out how you want to approach this conversation. Perhaps you will say something like:

Sasha, I wanted to speak with you about how to handle the cleaning of the apartment? I feel that since you began your new job, I have been cleaning the house. At first, I didn’t mind because I knew you were adjusting to your new schedule. But, now I feel that it is becoming more difficult for me to manage and I was hoping we could work out a cleaning schedule that is best for both of us?”

Once you have read through what you have written edit any points or possible trigger words that could cause your roommate to become defensive. The next step would be anticipating what your roommate might say. Perhaps she will just apologize profusely and say she didn’t realize she had been slacking. Maybe she will say she doesn’t feel a schedule is necessary everyone should just pick up after themselves and clean when necessary. In both cases, prepare how you would like to respond. If your end goal is to have a cleaning schedule, what can you say to make sure that happens?

Alexander Graham Bell said, ” Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Addressing conflict and managing it successfully just like anything else requires preparing and practice to become more comfortable and reduce anxieties. Give it a try before your next difficult conversation and take note of how different your experience is.

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

 


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