“Can we talk?”
These infamous words cause our hearts to race whether we are hearing them or saying them.
Difficult conversations are tough, and there are a multitude of fears accompanying having to confront someone about a difficult situation. Following the CARE model is one way we can have difficult conversations without surrendering our relationships or forfeiting our mental and emotional health.
The CARE model focuses on how we can deliver difficult conversations with an emphasis on being constructive, accountable, respectful, and empowering. It is important we focus on the delivery of our conversations, and strategically think and practice ways of speaking to others about difficult topics.
Below I’ve compiled some of my favorite tips from the CARE model. The list includes tips I wish I would’ve known during past difficult conversations; tips Theta members at various chapters claim are their biggest takeaways from the model; and tips that are a constant reminder that it takes time and practice to be comfortable with confrontation.
- Consider if you are the right person to be having this difficult conversation in the first place.
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions deeply and to the fullest extent alone before addressing a difficult topic with anyone else.
- Use “I” statements: You want to take ownership over your feelings and emotions instead of blaming them on others. For example, “I felt embarrassed the other night when this story was brought up in front of our friends,” instead of saying, “You embarrassed me the other night when you brought up that story in front of our friends.”
- Difficult conversations are the root of all accountabilities. It is important to hold others accountable for their actions, but in order to do so we want to set agreements instead of expectations. An agreement is an accountability measure where both parties give their input and decide on what is best, whereas an expectation is a standard set by one person without the input of the other.
- One way we can practice being respectful is by following the Three-Second Rule, which says we should wait three seconds in between one person finishing their thought and the next person responding. This helps us actively listen, prevents us from interrupting others, and gives others space to elaborate.
- In order to be empowering, we need to remember our purpose in having the difficult conversation, and that purpose is an investment in the person we are confronting. Oftentimes, we can get so wrapped up in a messy situation that we group the person’s character with their mistakes. In order to empower others, we need to recognize that a mistake is simply that, give others room to grow, and remember a person’s character is not defined by their lowest moments.
We all experience difficult and uncomfortable conversations, but we must remember that being vulnerable during these times is a strength. Have the difficult conversations, but make sure you do it with care.