How to Talk about Sensitive Topics in order to be Heard

Before you speak, avoid making assumptions that will create feelings of anxiety, stress, and may cause us to attack or avoid
o   Assumption that bringing up a controversial topic will turn other participants into adversaries
o   False: The only way to keep peace is to silently accept that other person’s opinion
o   False: Assumption that being honest does not care for the emotions of the other person

When you speak, choose to bring up topics in a way that brings people together instead of apart
o   Accept responsibility for your role first and foremost
o   Honesty is always the best policy
o   Respect your opinion and the opinion of others
o   Make space for your opinion and create space for the opinions of others
o   Have an initial goal be a free flow of thoughts, feelings experiences..
o   Keep in mind that everyone has different experiences and therefore will have a different point of view which are important information
o   The Silent Treatment is a silent killer. Not to be confused with slowing down, considering the other participants viewpoint and responding to what they are currently sharing
o   Humor is great to lighten conversation. It is NOT GOOD as a tactic to express displeasure at another person. If you are not sure, avoid humor
o   Sarcasm, innuendo and exaggerated non-verbal communication NEVER has a place at this point of the conversation. 
o   Also off the table should be inflammatory, derogatory or emotionally sensitive data
o   Sabotage might look like a win in the short term but creates stonewalling, defensiveness and contempt

As we begin the conversation, a few ideas about goals that build powerful speaking skills
o   The goal needs to be a mutual win
o   In case of competing goals, look for an “and” solution that addresses needs of both
o   The goal is mutual understanding instead of correcting the other person
o   The goal is for all participants to come away feeling they gained something not punished
o   “Two wrongs don’t make a right” 
o   Peace is great but resolution is the goal
o   When emotions start to stir, go back to the initial goal of mutual win
o   Refocus as much as necessary to stay present and rational with thoughts toward goal

Putting the skills of using our voice together to create conversations that advance topics and relationships
o   Articulate clearly and agree mutually on the desired goal—start as small as you need to
o   Clarify the worst-case scenario and gain agreement on that
o   Ask thoughtful questions and consider possibilities such as “And”
o   Take breaks and move back in forth between feelings and questions to keep conversation moving forward
o   Table (not avoid) topics that create “enemy” or “keep the peace at all costs” mindset until all parties are able to participate in a collaborative and productive manner. 
o   The solution comes at the end of the interaction or numerous interactions.