I’m known for tackling difficult conversations head on. I’ll talk about periods, bits of my body I hate and even bits of my body that are missing. I don’t get embarrassed by stuff like that, in fact I relish it.
But like most
women people, if you ask me to talk to my boss about a pay rise, my throat closes. Having “the talk” with a partner is awkward. Force me to talk to my parents about aged-care options and I want to cry.
Psychologist and career coach, Dr Tim Sharp says wanting to avoid difficult conversations is completely normal.
“It comes up a lot in my work because it’s extremely common. If we don’t have these difficult conversations, we and the people around us suffer because we’re not dealing with real and important issues,” he says.
There are three things that can help (in case you can’t tell I put them into my own words so they are easy to remember).
1. Acknowledge it’s a kind of shitty situation.
“If you acknowledge that you and probably the other person will experience some negative emotions, stress, anxiety, you’ll be less likely to be taken by surprise and more like to be ready to manage those emotions. Forewarned is forearmed. Be realistic that some degree of distress is normal in these situations. And that’s okay,” he says.
2. Calm the f*ck down.
“If you’re feeling anxious, take some slow breaths and give yourself some time out. Don’t rush into a difficult conversation,” he says.
3. Don’t be a drama queen.
“One of the best things we can do and often the last things done is go in imagining a positive outcome.,” Dr Sharp says. “It’s easy to focus on how the conversation could be a disaster. But what would be the best possible outcome be? Focus on solutions rather than on problems. This gives you a positive goal to aim for.”
Now let’s apply these kick-ass rules to the situations that get you all sweaty.
Asking For A Pay Rise
God. I hate that I’m so bad at this. I blame being a woman. Women are less likely to ask for what they are worth than men. I’ve started to discuss money with my girlfriends. We take away the taboo of talking about what we earn and that in turn helps when you have to face the boss about your own income.
Dr Sharp says being prepared is key.
“Firstly do you honestly think you deserve it? Do the research and come with a supportive argument. Show work you’ve done and what you are achieving plus what others are earning. Take the emotion out and state ‘this is what I’m on and this is why I should be on more’,” he says.