Talking about problems in relationships is hard – whether it’s a work relationship, romantic relationship, friend relationship, or family relationship. But if you are feeling angry or frustrated and the relationship “give and take” feels unbalanced, talking it through will be even more difficult. Here are some tips for talking it over well:
- Identify a time that will be convenient to talk – when you won’t be rushed and you’ll have some privacy.
- Have a plan for handling your emotions – if you immediately present as angry, the other person will likely have a hard time really listening to your deeper concern
- Practice what you’re going to say.
Don’t play the blame game
- If the other person feels attacked, do you think they’ll be able to hear you well?
- Ask the other person for their perspective and thoughts.
- There may be hundreds of examples of when you “gave” and they only “took” but limit yourself to only a few specific examples
Try to stay calm
- Remember to breathe deeply
- Notice if you begin pacing, fidgeting, yelling, raising your voice, or feeling angry – that is the time to pause
- Expect them to probably disagree with you on some (or many) points – they may not have thought about this before, and may be surprised at your concerns or ill-prepared to talk about it thoroughly
At the end of the conversation, it will be helpful to refocus onto positives of the relationship. What does the other person do well? Why are you both thankful for the relationship? It will also be helpful to identify the next steps to re-balance the relationship. Are there specific things that one or both of you will do or try as a result of this conversation? Try not to walk away angry or vague about what is next.
Relationships are important, and we all must “give and take” so that the relationship is balanced, meaningful, and enjoyable for both parties. This is true at work, at home, at church, and everywhere else. If you’re struggling in a relationship, identify why, and prepare for a healthy conversation with the other person.