In last week’s blog, I discussed ways to improve your communication with your partner. But good communication does not end with starting the conversation. It is equally important to know how to deal with difficult conversations, instances where one or both of you is upset. It is all too easy to shut down when a conversation does not go the way we want it to. We may also hide behind anger and accusations rather than dealing with the underling difficult issues. Overcoming this challenge begins with empathy.

Empathize first, then respond

This is my general rule for approaching difficult conversations with your partner. If someone is upset, empathize first. Hear what they’re saying and make it clear that you understand it. Take the time to hear and understand them before you start constructing your response. You don’t have to parrot it back or use elaborate communication tools, but you can make it clear that you really see why they are upset. That doesn’t mean you agree with them, but you can see the situation through their eyes. Then you can proceed to converse about how you see it and how to handle the situation. By the way, this technique is valuable in all relationships, from parenting to work relationships to your life with your intimate partner.

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