6 Tips On Discussing Difficult Personal Topics During the Holiday Season
Discussing difficult personal topics is all about understanding boundaries and addressing those topics in a way that doesn’t offend the other person. Keep in mind that personal topics can easily spill into business relationships, so tread lightly as not to ruin an ongoing business relationship. Following are some points to keep in mind:
- Do you really want to go there? Make sure it is a topic that really needs to be discussed. Some topics might be important to you, but won’t produce a positive outcome. For example, if your friend always shows up late for meetings, it might be appropriate to start a discussion to clear the air. However, if you don’t like the wardrobe choices your friend makes, as long as the clothes are clean and situation appropriate, you probably don’t want to address the topic.
- Set the right tone before starting the discussion. This is true with any discussion. Open up the discussion positively. Start with a cordial introduction and show personal interest in the other person by asking them about what they have been up to. Never start off with the difficult topic first. Choose a relaxed atmosphere and place.
- Choose words wisely. Don’t use words with double meanings or complex words. Use words that are exact and to the point. Instead of using phrases like “you’re overbearing” or “you’re obtuse” use phrases like “you have a forceful personality” and “In some situations you’re slow to perceive . . .”.
- Keep any personal judgments out of the discussion. Present the topic using factual not emotional perceptions. Use just enough forcefulness to get your point across, but don’t be overly pushy. It’s up to them to take your advice not you to force it on them.
- Use positive reinforcement. If you can, present the topic in a positive light. For example stating “When you’re in a group, it’s great to ask questions, it shows you are interested in what others have to say.”, creates a more positive spin, than saying “You should really stop talking about yourself all the time, it gets old really fast.”
- Be prepared to listen and take counter comments. Most people don’t like receiving personal criticism. Be prepared for the unexpected. You can’t always anticipate how people will respond. They may challenge your assessment or they may counter with a personal comment about you. Whatever the response is, stay calm, keep eye contact, make it clear that you are trying to give them helpful insight, and be prepared to disengage from the topic of discussion if necessary.
Remember make sure to set your boundaries, keep your topic discussion positively focused and be prepared to listen. Your goal is to keep that friend for life not to distance them from you. Handled correctly, the discussion can leave you both with a stronger bond.
Have a great Holiday season! See you in the New Year.
Next up – Goals for 2014