Difficult Conversations Part Two: Choose Your Words Carefully

In Part One, I encourage readers to take time to think about their approach before having a conversation that feels difficult. In addition to timing it well and considering your goals, you also want to choose your words carefully.

I know that sounds obvious but it’s really not uncommon for any one of us to say something we regret. Maybe we meant something else or we just didn’t know it would make them mad like that. But it did. Some words can really trigger folks. So do yourself (and others) a favor and consciously try to add some words and drop others from your “discussion” vocabulary.

Here’s a cheat sheet:

Helpful                                                                                 Not-So-Helpful

Upset                                                                                  Crazy

Concerned                                                                         Freaking Out

Staying Close                                                                     Stalking

Alone Time                                                                         Leave Me Alone

When You…                                                                        You Always…

I Feel Uncomfortable/Confused      I Hate…

Worried                                                                               Hysterical

Not Very Kind                                                                     Being a Jerk

Let’s Step Back for a Moment                                         Calm Down

I’m Wondering if You Think…                                         I Know You Think…

Can We Talk About…                                                       You Need to Tell Me…

Because I Care About You                                              Because I’m Sick of You

I Need a Break                                                                 You Disgust Me

I’m Not Sure You Understand                                      You Don’t Know Anything

I’m Trying to Understand                                               You’re Lying

I’m Listening                                                                      Go Ahead (said with a smirk)

Frustrated                                                                         Sick of This

I’m Confused                                                                     You’re an Idiot

That’s Not Accurate. Let Me Explain                          As If!

Let Me Make Sure I Heard You Right                         Are You F’ing Kidding Me?


 Okay, some of these are to make you laugh but they’re real, right? It’s easy to go to the more anger-filled ones than the softer, gentler ones when we’re upset. The problem is though that we can really make things worse by using certain words. The other person may feel attacked throwing them into defensive mode even if that’s not what you’re trying to do.

 So, when you’re planning your approach to a difficult conversation, in addition to thinking about your goal and timing, think about what words you want to use. Create your opening line or paragraph and practice it so when it comes time to actually say it in front of the other person you’ll already have it down and will feel more confident. Promise.