How To Have Difficult Conversations

June 17, 2022 4 min read

How To Have Difficult Conversations

“Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.” - Brené Brown
Does anyone really love having difficult conversations? If you do let us know your secrets! 🤣 As nurses we are constantly having to use our voice to speak up for our patients, but often when it comes to our own needs or feelings it can be difficult to speak up. There aren't classes in school teaching us how to have these difficult conversations and we can almost guess you're sweating at the thought of it, so it’s no wonder when we need to have them it's easier to run the other way. Having hard conversations are the kind of thing you have to take action on and do in order to improve, so if we’re all avoiding them instead of having them it’s no wonder we aren’t prepared. Think about how difficult it was to start your first IV! You didn't get better thinking about it, you had to take action and do it.
Here’s a small snippet of our Needs Advice thread in our Community App with nurses asking for advice on how to have hard conversations.

You may never look forward to having a hard conversation, however, however there are a few things we can do to better equip and support ourselves in having them. It's important we are able to communicate and speak up for ourselves for so many reasons, but ultimately for our own happiness and well-being. Your voice should be heard! Here are a few of our secrets to ensure a smoother conversation is had even when it's really difficult to do.

  1. Define what the ultimate goal is that you're hoping to achieve by having the hard conversation. Is it to express your feelings? Is it to ask for something? If we don’t know the goal of having the hard conversation then that can lead to not expressing ourselves correctly or not ensuring we say what it is we actually need to say. When you know this, share it when you're having the difficult conversation. "My ultimate goal for this conversation is to be able to express how hurt I felt when ...."

  2. Script out what it is you want to say! Yes, actually write down what it is you are wanting to say. If you need to address that this is a hard conversation for you, that is also a great thing to write out. You can start by saying “This is really difficult for me to discuss, so I appreciate you sitting down with me and talking through this.” or “I’m nervous to have this conversation, but I know I need to in order to help support myself so thank you for having this conversation with me.” We prepare for so many things in life, it’s 100% necessary and okay to prepare for a difficult conversation. After you script out what you want to say, practice reading and talking through it. This way you know going into the conversation you are prepared to say all you need to. This will ensure you don't forget anything important and feel the regret of things left unsaid after the conversation is over. 

  3. Use "I" statements when possible. Instead of saying “You don’t do anything to help me...” try saying “I don’t feel like anyone here cares about my wellbeing or how this job is impacting my life.” Using "I" statements can help to keep the other person from jumping into defense mode. We can only speak to our own experiences or feelings, so it's important to focus on that rather than accusing or assuming we know how someone else feels.  

  4. Remember to take some deep breaths, exhale and take a pause! Difficult conversations can cause a lot of tension and emotional buildup and in turn we can forget to breathe. It is okay to pause, take some deep breaths and readjust yourself in the midst of a difficult conversation. Keep a water bottle near by and pause to take a drink. It will give you something to do and allow yourself a brief pause. 
  5. Know that a resolution may not occur in one sitting. It’s important to know going into the conversation what it is you are needing, however, not all hard things can be resolved in one conversation. Allow yourself and the other person space to continue the dialogue later on and even schedule a follow-up if needed. There could be some things that need to happen before another conversation. Just know it is okay to leave a conversation unresolved, but ensure you speak up for yourself if you need to come back to it at a later time. 
  6. Celebrate yourself afterwards! Doing hard things is difficult, but you are an amazing human who took the hard step and did it. Celebrate this and the success of doing the hard thing, no matter the outcome!
Our Community App is a safe place to come and get advice or vent if you are finding yourself in this spot of needing to have a difficult conversation. Here's two other great tips we loved reading!
Nurses Inspire Nurses exist to help you know you’re not alone & our app is the perfect place for you if you’re needing support. We feel so deeply that no one was made to life and nursing alone, so if you need help or support we’re just a click away - come join us! 


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