Initiating tough conversations
Making a difference in someone’s life can be difficult. Tough topics can feel daunting. Here are some tips for making it easier:
Create a Safe Space
Where you talk matters. Plan conversations in places that are emotionally neutral and comfortable for both of you. Or talk during activities you normally do together—like a bike ride, a walk or grabbing a bite.
Ensure Confidentiality
If they’re confident that what they share stays between the two of you, they’ll be more likely to respond in future conversations. They might even initiate them.
Listen Completely
No distractions. No judgment. No multi-tasking. Zero criticism. Be fully present and focused on them. This lets them feel heard, even honored and respected. And the better they feel, the more they’ll talk.
Ask Open-ended Questions
By replacing questions requiring yes/no answers with open-ended ones, you encourage sharing of thoughts and personal perspective. Do ask:          “What was that like for you? Don’t ask:       “Were you afraid?” The second question labels the experience and offers an easy answer. The first one requires them to confront and express their individual feelings.
Make Conversations Two-way
No lecturing. No preaching. No excessive advice. A respectful back-and-forth exchange allows them to express feelings and reactions. And it makes them more likely to engage in future conversations.
Grab Teachable Moments
Often the most effective conversations are ones that aren’t planned. If an opportunity to address an issue pops up—in an event, during a TV show, on the street—capitalize on it to provide real-life examples and initiate spontaneous reactions.
Baby Steps
Don’t try to do it all in one conversation. Keep a dialogue going in small bits, over time. Handling tough topics little by little makes them less overwhelming. It allows them (and you) to digest and process ideas before jumping too far ahead.