So, the Tension Season is here. The emotional surges of holidays create lovely bursts of good will and well-being, but they can also lift some ordinary distresses into orbit. We have barely dug out the wrapping paper and already several people have presented Difficult Situations for which a difficult conversation is required.

– Joy was wrongly accused of a misdeed.

– Chris was told of stories being circulated that featured him in an unfavorable role.

– Hope learned that a friend had lied to her.

– Patience was excluded from important and interesting work events without being told why.

Everyone wants to strike back. Happily, however, everyone has remembered the Language at Work rule of determining the purpose for the Strike Back before launching into it. They know that having a purpose will help them create a meaningful script. To review, purposes for conversations can vary. Examples:

– To vent. No action is sought.

– To request a change. Say what you want.

– To ask for explanation.

– To reduce emotion, with an eye toward a more careful conversation at a later, calmer time.

It is also helpful to remember that usually only one purpose can be addressed in a conversation. Break your message down into deliverable bites and offer them one at a time. Listeners frequently operate on one channel and are easily distracted. We do not want to offer distractions.

So, knowing all of these good things, and prepared with their purposes and desired outcomes, the Difficult Situation Experiencers are still wiggling with indignation and frustration. What do I say? What if he says….? She always….! What if I forget?

Answer: Practice.

A piano recital, a speech, a sales pitch, an interview – these are all events in which we hope for success, and we wouldn’t enter them without preparing. The Difficult Situation Conversation deserves no less.

How to practice?

– Prepare your script, which can mean just collecting your thoughts and arranging them into bullets;

– Anticipate reactions;

– Anticipate your response to possible reactions;

– Prepare remarks to help you ignore side-tracks and get back on script;

– Keep your purpose in mind and stop when you get there;

– Say the conversation to yourself or with a buddy.

– Do it a few times.

Navigating the Tension Season is not for the faint-hearted or easily bruised, but many pretty things can be nurtured. If nurturing doesn’t come easily for you – practice.

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