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How to Have Difficult Conversations

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The Conflict Resolution Programs offers helpful tools for communicating and understanding

Two talking heads trying to communicate different ideas.

 A difficult conversation is a planned discussion about an uncomfortable topic where the goal is to share different perspectives, build mutual understanding, and develop respect. The Conflict Resolution Program has developed a guide to help you through these conversations.

Being able to effectively communicate about a negative feeling, disrespectful experience, or difference of opinions is a crucial personal and professional skill.

As mediators, facilitators, and trainers, the Conflict Resolution Program at IPA helps groups work through difficult conversations and promote understanding. We want to share a few tips for having productive conversations about difficult topics.

  1. Take a moment to collect your thoughts and to recognize what emotions you're feeling.
  2. Use an I-statement to express what emotion you are feeling (using one emotion word), what action brought about that emotion, and why you are feeling that way.
  3. Actively listen to the other person to understand their thoughts and emotions.
  4. Thank your partner for listening and sharing during the conversation.

Remember that that goal isn't to "win" the conversation, but for both people to feel heard, understood, and respected.

For a more information, check out our guide on How to Have Difficult Conversations.

 

About the Conflict Resolution Program

The Conflict Resolution Program (CRP), part of the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) is a resource dedicated to supporting transformational and organizational change in nonprofit, public, government, and educational settings. This is done primarily through teaching and promoting effective communication, collaborative problem-solving, and conflict resolution.

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How to Have Difficult Conversations