09/16/2013 01:05 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2013

3 Tips to Master Difficult Conversations

At some point or another, we all have to have a difficult conversation with someone. Whether with a lover, friend, coworker, or neighbor, something will happen, and you'll need to clear the air.

Speaking truthfully and authentically is your mandate if you are going to be a healthy person.

However, it's difficult for most people to be comfortable with "confrontation." The first thing that happens when we think about having a difficult conversation is we become afraid. And fear creates constriction. So now, before you've even spoken to the person, your energy is constricted. First, I want you to take a deep breath and visualize the conversation. See the right and perfect language flowing from your mouth. Visualize and FEEL how you will feel once the conversation is over -- satisfied, relieved, peaceful.

Second, don't go into the conversation looking at it as a confrontation, but rather as you speaking your truth. Use "I" language. "This is how I felt." "This is my experience." "This is what happened for me." When you use "you" language, it puts the other person on the defensive.

Third, take a look at these lists of ineffective and effective communication characteristics. As you read through these, which resonate? Create a snapshot of your communication style. And practice how you can move from ineffective to effective speech.

Ineffective Communication:

  • Indirect: not getting to the point, never clearly stating intention
  • Passive: timid, reserved
  • Antagonistic: angry, aggressive, or hostile tone
  • Cryptic: underlying message obscured and requires interpretation
  • Hidden: true agenda never directly stated
  • Non-Verbal: communicated through body language and behaviors rather than words
  • One-Way: more talking than listening
  • Unresponsive: little interest in the perspective or needs of the other person
  • Off-Base: responses and needs of the other person are misunderstood and misinterpreted
  • Dishonest: false statements are substituted for true feelings, thoughts, and needs

Effective Communication:

  • Direct: to the point, leaving no doubt as to meaning
  • Assertive: not afraid to state what is wanted or why
  • Congenial: affable and friendly
  • Clear: underlying issues are articulately expressed
  • Open: no intentionally hidden messages
  • Verbal: clear language used to express ideas
  • Two-Way: equal amounts of talking and listening
  • Responsive: attention paid to the needs and perspective of the other person
  • Honest: true feelings, thoughts, and needs are stated

Speaking authentically deepens intimacy, and you and your relationships deserve the truth.

Have you ever had a great difficult or awkward conversation? How did you master it?

Love love love,


For more by Terri Cole, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.