As our relationships deepen, we become invested in each other’s happiness. We want to see our loved ones thrive, so it can be especially hard if we feel they’re making a mistake. While the easy thing to do would be to remain quiet when we really care about someone we sometimes have to risk having a hard conversation.
We all want to be seen as nice, but it’s much more important to be sure we’re being kind. Though used interchangeably, the two are not the same thing—sometimes being “not so nice” is the kindest thing you can do. While nice smiles and nods in order to be agreeable, kindness digs deep to offer authentic support. That might mean showing up and being a champion, but it can also mean honestly expressing your concerns. If you’re currently in a situation that feels like the latter, these tips can help you weather a tough talk with someone you love.
Weigh the pros and cons of speaking up
Don’t rush this conversation. It requires a high level of discernment. Know that in speaking up, you risk alienating your loved one or making them feel judged. There are times to step back and allow others to find their way, and times when it seems there is simply too much at stake. Consider the consequences of telling them what you think and also of keeping quiet. Make sure that you are behind your choice 100% and it’s not an opinion that might change.
Prepare what you’ll say
You can’t underestimate the importance of identifying your audience. What type of person is your friend? Are they generally receptive or do they tend to get defensive? Do they need an extra dose of sweetness or does critique seem to roll right off? Tailor your delivery to ensure maximum effect with minimal impact. Try your best to consider their perspective by playing out their side of things in your head.
Ask permission to have the conversation
This is not a moment when you want to blindside your loved one. Just as you’ve prepared yourself to have this conversation, you want them to arrive feeling calm and receptive. Let them know you’d like to find time to talk about something that, though coming from a place of love, may be difficult. Ask them when they might have the mental and emotional space to sit down with you; choose a comfortable, neutral place; then stick to the plan you’ve made.
Speak to actions, not character
Avoid making generalized statements about your friend’s character or motivation. Instead, point to specific actions and why those actions worry you. Explain what you can see from the outside that might be in their blind spot, but remain non-judgemental. We all sometimes act in ways that aren’t in line with who we really are inside. Be sure to express that you understand the difference.
Stay open-minded and really listen
Don’t turn this into a lecture where you simply talk at your loved one. Say what you needed to say, then make sure to really listen for as long as they need. Remain open to the possibility that you’ve misinterpreted or overlooked a crucial detail. We don’t always know as much as we think we do. Truly listening means being humble enough to realize that we don’t have all the answers and giving ourselves the chance to learn. It also silently broadcasts that we value and respect the person we’re engaging with. Challenge yourself to meet them with as much care and receptivity as you’d like to feel.
Let them know you love them no matter what
Maybe you won’t reach the solution you hoped for. Maybe they’ll make a choice you don’t agree with or continue on a path that worries you. You can’t force them to see your side, but you can love them through their mistakes—or through the process of proving you wrong. Let them know that while you might not support this situation, you’ll be there to love them unconditionally.
If you need help connecting to a space of love before a tough talk, give the yoga and meditation classes in our collection, On Relating, a try.