Courageous Conversations

A Guide to Courageous Conversations


Building Stronger Connections

Difficult conversations are an inevitable facet of life.

Good Conversations require understanding, communicating well, and being emotionally aware. They involve addressing conflicts, expressing concerns, or delving into sensitive topics.

In this blog, we’ll explore:
  • the importance of engaging in challenging dialogues
  • the reasons behind hesitancy in having courageous conversations and some introspective questions.
  • strategies for handling visceral feelings and preparation techniques for engaging in these discussions.
  • establishing safety and
  • strategies for navigating difficult conversations

Embracing Discomfort for Personal and Relational Growth


Embracing discomfort, especially in challenging conversations, offers transformative benefits.

In ” Daring Greatly, ” Dr. Brené Brown illuminates vulnerability as a key to connection and worthiness. This shift fosters self-compassion, empowering individuals to assert their needs and boundaries. Marshall B. Rosenberg underscores the importance of compassion in communication, emphasizing heart-centred mutual giving.

Engaging in challenging dialogues not only serves self-kindness but enriches relationships. Honest communication becomes a gift, cultivating trust and authenticity. Research affirms the positive impact of openly addressing needs on relationship satisfaction, reducing conflicts.

Dr. Susan David challenges the positivity obsession in “Emotional Agility,” promoting discomfort as a catalyst for growth—difficult conversations, she argues, open doors to personal and relational development. Dr. David J. Schneider emphasizes empathy’s role in successful dialogues, creating an environment where both perspectives are heard and respected.

Dr. John Gottman dispels the conflict fallacy, asserting effective conflict management is vital for relationship health. Despite the initial anxiety, addressing difficult conversations becomes an investment in relationship resilience.

Acknowledging the potential nervousness or anxiety, incorporating self-regulation exercises creates a calmer space for effective communication, facilitating personal and relational growth.

Why may you feel reluctant to have courageous conversations?


The reluctance to engage in courageous conversations about negative topics, arguments, boundaries, and other challenging subjects often stems from psychological, social, and emotional factors.

Here are some inner parts or aspects that may contribute to this reluctance:


Fear of Conflict:

Many people view conflict as inherently harmful. This apprehension may arise from previous experiences where conflicts were not effectively resolved or resulted in unfavourable outcomes.

Avoidance Coping Mechanism:

Some individuals have developed a coping mechanism of avoiding discomfort or difficult conversations to protect themselves from emotional distress. This can be rooted in a desire to maintain harmony or avoid potential rejection or criticism.

Concern for Others’ Feelings:

Empathy and concern for others’ feelings can sometimes hinder courageous conversations. People may fear hurting others, causing distress, or damaging relationships, leading them to avoid discussing challenging topics.

Low Self-Confidence:

People with diminished self-confidence might question their capacity to articulate their thoughts and emotions proficiently in challenging conversations. This lack of confidence can inhibit their willingness to engage in such discussions.


An inclination toward perfectionism can heighten the apprehension of making mistakes or uttering the wrong words in courageous conversations. This fear of imperfection can be paralyzing and hinder open Communication.

Cultural or Societal Norms:

Cultural or societal norms that discourage open expression of negative emotions or conflict may influence individuals to avoid courageous conversations. In some cultures, there might be a strong emphasis on politeness or avoiding confrontation.

Lack of Communication Skills:

Some individuals may need more effective communication skills, making it challenging to constructively express their thoughts and feelings. This can lead to a fear of engaging in conversations where effective Communication is crucial.

Personal Insecurity:

Insecurity about one’s opinions, beliefs, or values can make asserting oneself in challenging conversations difficult. The fear of being judged or invalidated may prevent individuals from expressing their perspectives.

Overcoming these barriers often involves self-reflection, developing communication skills, building emotional intelligence, and creating a supportive environment for open and honest dialogue. Encouraging a growth mindset and recognizing that courageous conversations can lead to personal and interpersonal growth can also help overcome these inner obstacles.

Perhaps you can try some self-regulating exercises to help soften the visceral experience within:

Here are some recommended self-regulating exercises:


Deep Breathing:

Engage in deep, diaphragmatic breathing to activate the body’s relaxation response. Inhale slowly through your nose, expand your tummy and ribs, and exhale through your mouth, releasing tension. Exhaling through the mouth helps release tension from the body. Repeat this process several times to calm the nervous system.

Suggestion: Try 8 repetitions of nose inhalation and exhalation. The pattern of breath is up to you. Try equal breaths in and out or where your exhales are longer than your inhales. Try it out and see how you feel.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR):

In this exercise, you will tense and then release each muscle group. Start from your toes/feet and gradually move up to your head. This helps release physical tension, promote relaxation, and reduce anxiety.

Here is an example:

Mindful Meditation:

Practice mindfulness meditation to anchor yourself in the present moment. Focus on your breath, bodily sensations, or objects in your surroundings. Mindfulness can help alleviate anxiety and create a sense of clarity.

Here’s a 5-minute mediation option:


Close your eyes and visualize a calm and safe space. It could be a serene beach, a peaceful forest, or any place that comforts you. Immerse yourself in the details of this mental image to create a sense of tranquillity.

Grounding Techniques:

Use grounding exercises to connect with the present moment. You can focus on your senses by observing the colours, textures, and sounds around you. Alternatively, engage in the “5-4-3-2-1” grounding technique by observing five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste.

Here is an example:


Develop positive affirmations related to the boundary conversation. Repeat statements such as “I am capable of expressing my needs” or “Setting boundaries is an act of self-care.” Positive affirmations have the power to alter your mindset positively and foster self-assurance.


Write down your thoughts and feelings about the upcoming boundary conversation. Explore any fears or concerns you may have. Journaling is a therapeutic avenue for expressing bottled-up emotions and attaining mental clarity.

Physical Exercise:

Engage in physical activity to release built-up tension and nervous energy. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a quick workout, or yoga, exercise can positively impact your mood and help regulate your emotions.

Listening to Soothing Music:

Curate a soothing music playlist to promote relaxation and a sense of calmness. Listening to calming tunes can profoundly affect your emotions and reduce anxiety.

Positive Visualization:

Envision the boundary conversation unfolding positively. Picture yourself expressing your needs calmly, and imagine the other person responding with understanding. This positive visualization can instill a sense of confidence and ease.

Use Stress Balls or Fidget Toys:

Keep stress balls or fidget toys easily accessible to provide a physical means of releasing nervous energy to alleviate tension and redirect your attention.


Utilize calming scents through essential oils or scented candles. Aromas like lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus can have a soothing effect and contribute to relaxation.

Experiment with these self-regulating exercises to discover which ones resonate most with you. Combining a few techniques can create a personalized routine that supports you in managing nervousness before engaging in a boundary conversation.

Establishing a Foundation of Safety:


Safety before a difficult conversation is crucial to ensure a constructive and respectful exchange. This list is prepared under the assumption that the situation requiring a courageous conversation with others is stable and secure. If it proves otherwise, please reach out for help, support, or assistance.

Here are some tips to help you create a safe environment:

Choose the Right Time and Place:
  • Find a quiet and private space where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Select a moment when both individuals can concentrate without interruptions or time limitations.
Express Your Intentions:
  • Start the conversation by expressing your intentions and the desired outcome. Make it clear that you want to understand each other and find a solution together.
Establish Common Ground:
  • Recognize common ground or shared objectives to establish a sense of unity before addressing areas of disagreement.
Set Ground Rules:
  • Establish ground rules for the conversation, such as taking turns speaking, avoiding interrupting, and respecting each other’s opinions.

Remember that the objective is cultivating an environment where both parties feel acknowledged and respected, nurturing a positive and productive conversation.

Efficient Strategies for Navigating Difficult Conversations:


Active Listening:
  • Practice reflective listening by paraphrasing the speaker’s words to ensure mutual understanding, fostering a sense of safety.
  • Give your full attention to the other person. Repeat back what you’ve heard to ensure you understand correctly.
Use “I” Statements:
  • Articulate your thoughts and concerns using “I” statements to prevent sounding accusatory. This approach assists in expressing your feelings without placing blame on the other person.
  • Frame your concerns using “I” statements to convey personal feelings, promoting a non-confrontational tone and reducing defensiveness.
Embrace Empathy:
  • Convey empathy and understanding through words and body language, acknowledging the other person’s perspective.
Seek Common Ground:
  • Establish common ground by expressing shared goals or concerns at the outset, shifting the focus from differences to areas of agreement.
Clarify Misunderstandings:
  • Encourage clarification using phrases like “Can you help me understand better?” to prevent assumptions and promote accurate understanding.
  • To maintain a safe dialogue, calmly express boundaries, focus on the issue, and avoid personal attacks.
Focus on Solutions:
  • Guide the discussion towards solutions by posing open-ended questions such as “How can we collaborate to discover a resolution?” This approach promotes a forward-thinking mindset.
Reflect on Intentions:
  • Before initiating a difficult conversation, reflect on your intentions, ensuring they align with expressing needs, understanding the other person, and strengthening the relationship.
Be Open to Compromise:
  • Acknowledge that finding common ground may involve compromise approaching the conversation with a collaborative mindset for mutual benefit.
Take Breaks if Necessary:
  • If emotions run high, it’s okay to take a break. Allow both parties to cool down and gather their thoughts before returning to the conversation.
Use Humor (if appropriate):
  • When used appropriately, humour can help diffuse tension. However, be cautious not to make jokes at the other person’s expense or the situation.
Be Mindful of Non-Verbal Cues:
  • Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Ensure that your non-verbal cues convey openness and a willingness to listen.
Acknowledge Emotions:
  • Recognize and validate the emotions of both parties. Let them know you understand their perspective, even if you disagree.
Avoid Assumptions:
  • Clarify any assumptions or interpretations before moving forward. Misunderstandings can escalate tension, so strive for clarity.
Focus on Solutions:
  • Shift the conversation toward finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems. Collaboratively explore possible resolutions.
Follow-Up with Support:
  • Express willingness to revisit the conversation if needed and offer additional support, whether through further dialogue or involving a mediator.

Please know that having difficult conversations can be a daunting task, but it’s essential to approach them with care and understanding. The success of these conversations is determined by the steps taken during the discussion and the careful preparation and ongoing support afterward. By engaging in conversations with empathy and compassion, we strengthen connections and promote personal growth and effective conflict resolution while also upholding the dignity of everyone involved. However, if you find that personal challenges are hindering the process despite your best efforts, please know that seeking the support of a professional is a brave and wise decision. Remember, you don’t have to face these challenges alone.

xx Allison

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or other qualified health providers with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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Allison Lund is board certified with the American Association for Drugless Practitioners
as a Personal Empowerment Coach, Gentle Trauma Release Practitioner, and Reiki Master.