We all have moments in our lives when people will disappoint us, or we feel hurt by them, but not everyone is capable of having difficult conversations to confront the issues before it is too late. Here are some tips I have learned throughout the years thanks to countless seminars, psychology books, and my Collaborative experiences:

1. Remember BIFF– When dealing with people that are upset, it is best to remember keep your statements brief, informative, friendly, but firm. Bill Eddy refers to this as “BIFF” statements.

2. Keep it simple.  When someone is emotionally flooding, they only retain 25% of what you are saying, so try to keep the message short and sweet.

3. We cannot un-do the past, so there is no point in dwelling on it. Instead it is more productive to focus on the future.

4. Look at the positives— try to look at resolving conflict as an opportunity for growth.

5. Keep focusing on your “I” statements; in other words, you want to express how you feel and what your perspective is on a situation.

6. Try to avoid attacking a person– they will simply react badly. If you truly want to invite an open dialogue, you need to make it clear that what you want to do is understand each person’s perspective.

7. Weigh the pros and cons to having the discussion versus leaving things alone. I often tell my clients and friends that they need to pick their battles. In each situation with friends or family, we need to do a cost-benefit analysis– the cost of doing nothing & letting more time pass without any resolution can have incredibly severe consequences.

Ultimately, despite our best efforts, sometimes people simply cannot have these difficult conversations, but at least you can look back and know that you tried to invite the dialogue.  Sometimes, it is not about getting the other person to adopt your point of view– we will not always see things the same way. What may seem like a minor thing to one person is huge to another.  The point is to make an effort to understand one another’s perspective, and to try and forgive one another for past mistakes. This will go a long way in building strong relationships.

By Regina A. DeMeo