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Communication is the most important element in a relationship. How it’s done, where it happens, and the tone used are only a fraction of the criteria that influence good or bad communication.

One element of communication that is often avoided is the dreaded “difficult conversation.” But why? Well, no one wants to be on the giving or the receiving end of that kind of conversation. It is as difficult to dish as it is to digest, so people evade it altogether due to fear of confrontation or conflict.

 Unfortunately, the more time spent avoiding a difficult conversation, the more difficult it becomes. If you find yourself on the brink of a difficult conversation, here are five tips you can apply to make the experience a tad easier:

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Unfortunately, the more time spent avoiding a difficult conversation, the more difficult it becomes.

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  1. Be clear. You don’t have to go into the conversation with a page-long agenda, but you should certainly come prepared with the following things – a clear reason, a clear objective, and a clear solution for the situation. Failure to have any of these can lead to confusion and an unnecessarily prolonged discussion.
  1. Admit your part. The last thing you want is to blame or attack the other person about what they did or did not do. Instead, begin the discussion by owning up to your involvement and contributions that ultimately led to this conversation. You give yourself credibility by holding yourself accountable for your own actions. The other person will feel more comfortable and less defensive, and will be more open to continuing the conversation.
  1. Approach unapologetically. Disclaimer: This does not mean that you do not have to apologize. It simply means that the task is already challenging enough, so don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not easy to deliver hard news, so approach it with sincerity, respect, and confidence in knowing that you are doing the right thing by addressing the situation before it gets worse.
  1. Prepare for a reaction. Regardless of how much you organize beforehand, you can never guarantee the manner in which a person will react. You may have to deal with crying, complete silence, or even anger. Be sure to control your own emotions and keep your tone calm.
  1. Prepare for a change in the relationship dynamics. It is difficult to come out of a hard conversation the same way you went in. Period. Understand that it could take time for the relationship to adjust and for any awkwardness to subside. In the interim, remain professional and continue to conduct business as usual.

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