9 Ways to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Difficult conversations are necessary for healthy relationships. Prepared with the right approach, you can make those conversations much smoother.

This blog post shares nine things you can do to prepare for a difficult conversation.

Table of Contents

  1. Personal Development
  2. Start with the Basics
  3. Avoiding Conflict is Normal
  4. Conflict Avoidance
    1. How to Address Conflict Avoidance
  5. Conflict is Inevitable
  6. Nine Ways to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation
    1. Choose Your Battles
    2. Be Brave
    3. Set Goals
    4. Prepare for Success
    5. Use a Script
    6. Choose a Neutral Location
    7. Manage Your Emotions
    8. Be Open to Feedback
    9. Express Compassion
  7. Summary
    1. Re-Cap
  8. Related Topics

Personal Development

Personal development is an ongoing process that helps us grow in our lives. It includes learning new things, improving ourselves, and making changes in our lives. How we approach, manage, and work through difficult conversations is vital to our personal growth.

Start with the Basics

There are three main areas of personal development:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Goal Setting
  3. Action Planning

When exploring new approaches to difficult conversations, it’s crucial to focus on these three areas of personal development.

Focusing on a structured plan when approaching difficult conversations helps build confidence when faced with conflict situations in our relationships.

Avoiding Conflict is Normal

We often avoid difficult conversations because we are afraid of conflict. This desire to avoid conflict stems from our natural inclination for self-preservation. We are hardwired as mammals to avoid conflict at all costs for our survival. However, conflict is a natural phenomenon in our relationships, and learning how to manage it empowers us to experience healthy conflict interaction.

Because conflict can be emotionally overwhelming, it is much easier to avoid emotionally charged environments. The problem with this approach is that it makes it more likely that avoiding conflict with big emotions will never address the underlying issue. Avoidance of conflict may be easy in the short term, but it makes conflict resolution very difficult in the long run.

Conflict Avoidance

Conflict avoidance is often motivated by a desire to protect oneself from harm. However, this may prevent meaningful conversations from taking place and lead to further tension down the line. 

To avoid conflict, people may:

  • avoid eye contact
  • change the subject
  • walk away from a conversation without explaining why
  • not respond to messages, texts, or calls

How to Address Conflict Avoidance

Conflict avoidance is about being afraid of conflict, so one way to resolve it is to challenge your mindset. Instead of asking yourself, “How can I avoid conflict?” ask, “How can I effectively manage conflict?”. 

Conflict is Inevitable

Conflict is always present in our relationships. Only when it is stimulated and brought to the surface, do we become aware of its existence. Here’s an analogy for you to demonstrate how conflict manifests in our relationships:

Imagine there are ten black cats walking around your office party or family gathering. These ten black cats represent the amount of conflict in the room. The conflict represented by these cats is values, attitudes, desires, and beliefs. No one can see the cats, but they are present.

While we are mingling and sharing experiences and stories, the cats are jumping on counter-tops, knocking over cups, breaking glasses, playing with each other, and chasing the dog.

What if we put collars with bells on the cats? What would happen? This is conflict. It exists everywhere and is present all the time and in every relationship. The bells are the trigger for conflict escalation. Only when we see it and hear it do we know it exists.

Nine Ways to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

Confronting difficult conversations can be daunting but preparing yourself ahead of time to become comfortable with conflict is vital in resolving conflict.

Here are nine ways to help you practice becoming more comfortable with conflict and approaching difficult conversations:

Choose Your Battles

One way to deal with this is to decide what kinds of discussions are worth risking drama for and what aren’t. For example, avoiding bringing up sensitive topics like politics and religion with your extended family or colleagues is a good idea. On the other hand, choosing to avoid telling your partner you’re unhappy about something they said at a party would possibly create underlying tensions and resentments in your relationship.

Be Brave

Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Embrace them as an opportunity to develop your leadership skills. Conflict management is an integral part of personal development. By learning to handle difficult conversations effectively, you can set yourself up for success.

Set Goals

It’s important to know what you want before you start anything. Having a goal in mind will help you stay focused and on track. It’s also important to be realistic with your goals.

Prepare for Success

A conversation is an art form that takes time and effort to master. But, like any skill, the more you practice, the better you will become at it. An excellent way to start is by talking to yourself in a mirror, thinking about how different conversations might go and how you would respond to different scenarios. The outcome depends on what you say and how you say it.

Use a Script

Practicing with a script to open a difficult conversation helps ease anxieties and make the process smoother. A script makes it much easier because you will already know what you want to say. When you are under pressure to express something that might be difficult, it is much easier when you are prepared.

Here is a script you can use to help you prepare for your difficult conversations:

Choose a Neutral Location

It’s often more prudent to have a difficult conversation on neutral ground rather than on your turf. This way, the person won’t feel embarrassed or scared, and you’ll be more likely to get the desired results.

Manage Your Emotions

When beginning a discussion, always remember the importance of starting well. How you open the conversation will set the tone for the rest of the talk. For example, starting with a smile and offering coffee to the other person is more likely to result in a productive discussion than beginning with a stern face. Similarly, your voice’s tone can signal whether or not the discussion will be successful. Manage your emotions by preparing yourself and anticipating your feelings during the discussion.

Be Open to Feedback

Being open to feedback is another critical step in difficult conversations, making resolving the conflict more likely. Listening to the other party’s perspective helps to create a clear picture of the issues needing to be resolved. Ultimately, the goal is to resolve the issues for harmony in your relationship.

Express Compassion

Being honest and clear about your feelings can open the door to a productive conversation that can lead to a resolution. Respond with empathy to see things from the other person’s perspective. Surprisingly, approaching a difficult conversation from a space of compassion will help you understand the problem better and keep you on task for your goals.


Conflict in relationships is normal and inevitable. Preparing for difficult conversations helps our personal development and empowers us to make better life choices.


To approach a difficult conversation, it’s essential to follow a guide for personal development:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Goal Setting
  3. Action Planning

In your next difficult conversation, remember:

Choose your Battles– the goal is to resolve the issues in relationships most meaningful.

Be Brave– conflict is normal and inevitable in any relationship.

Set Goals– healthy relationships require a willingness to work through the highs and lows together.

Prepare for Success– feeling prepared empowers us to make healthy decisions for ourselves and our relationships.

Use a Script– managing conflict and confronting difficult conversations requires skill development and practice.

Choose a Neutral Location– common ground is vital for holding space for the relationships most important to us.

Manage Your Emotions– feeling in charge of our emotions during difficult conversations is pivotal for personal growth.

Be Open to Feedback– a willingness to see all sides of a conflict helps to resolve differences during difficult conversations.

Express Compassion– kindness is the foundation for human connection.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,


We all have unlimited potential.

Hi! I’m Suzanne and welcome to my blog. For more than two decades of teaching, writing, and public speaking, I’ve been inspiring children, teens, and adults to cultivate their potential.

With proven experience and being a published author of conflict management and children’s books, you’ll find practical strategies for personal development.

Most importantly, you’ll discover life lessons for living a fulfilled life.

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