Life is filled with sensitive issues. Right?
At times, you need to bring up a sensitive topic with others.
Unfortunately, most of us have examples of how NOT to bring it up. We’ve tried to bring it up. And it didn’t go well.
That doesn’t mean we should stop bringing things up. But it does mean we should consider how to do it more effectively next time.
So how do you bring it up?
Here are a few things I’ve learned.
#1 – Let them tell you how to bring it up.
This is a proactive step in relationships. Before there is anything sensitive to bring up, ask them (your spouse, roommate, office mate), “If I needed to speak to you about something sensitive, how could I do it so you’d be receptive to hearing me and conversing about it?”
They may want to read it in an email and have some time to think before talking in person. Or they may want to talk face-to-face immediately.
They may want you to be forthright in your comments or they may ask you to first hear them out?
Ultimately, they may disagree with your perception. But, if you do this, they can’t disagree with the approach you took. Read more on how matter and manner matter
#2 – Resist the urge to NOT bring it up.
There is a time to overlook and just move on. Read more on how ignoring is not the path to redeeming
Most people do not truly overlook such sensitive things. Instead they bleed out their concerns and criticisms in unhealthy ways like gossip and slander.
My rule is three strikes. If I think about it three times that’s an indication I need to bring it up.
Then we should discuss it, work it through, and move on.
#3 – Seek clarity before rendering judgment.
Rendering judgment without all the facts is foolishness. It will also be painful and time-consuming.
Instead, hearing another person out often reveals the breakdown. Isn’t this the plot of every sitcom? Simple misunderstanding leads to a domino of crazy events before coming to resolution.
Here’s how you do it. Say, “Help me to understand…” and then finish the line with whatever you observed. Help me to understand “these words,” “that action,” or “that decision.”
Help me to understand will yield clarity, at minimum. But it may even bring resolution.
#4 – Be forward-looking in your criticism.
If there was a mistake, don’t beat them up about it. They can’t change the past.
Instead, consider a future reality (ideally, one they’re excited about) that is impossible if this pattern continues. Such an approach situates you alongside them rather than opposed to them.
This doesn’t mean that hurt should never be expressed. Expressing hurt is appropriate. But it should never be done where the main intent is to counter-hurt the other.
#5 – Reaffirm love and commitment to the friendship/relationship.
If I’m assured that at the end of the conversation this person will still love me and is committed to me, I can listen to just about anything, no matter how sensitive.
Make clear it’s your love and commitment that demand you bring up sensitive topics. It’s not because it’s easy. Or you like it. Or you like to make them feel bad. It’s for long-term health and vitality.
Those are a few of my tips.
What do you got? Seriously, add your thoughts. This is a conversation!