At any given time, we may be forced to have difficult conversations in our relationships. These tough discussions can feel threatening to the stability and quality of our connections, but when we get through the hard parts, our connections are strengthened.

So whether it’s over something big or small, you can keep a difficult conversation in check and avoid an argument. It might make your relationship better, too!

Learn below how to approach tough topics and start constructive conversations.

Check unproductive habits

Even with good intentions, bringing up a small issue can quickly turn into a difficult conversation. You can easily adopt an “I just need to win” mindset, accidentally invalidating each other’s feelings or hurling unrelated insults. And, while it may feel good to yell your opinions or give the silent treatment, it often goes nowhere.

Take a shoulder-shoulder approach

Have you ever noticed how it’s much easier to talk about difficult topics when you’re in the car? There’s something about facing forward, shoulder to shoulder, that lets you speak more openly and honestly. It takes the pressure off.

That’s the concept behind the “shoulder-to-shoulder principle.” When you’re doing a separate activity, it’s easier to naturally bring up difficult subjects. And when the spotlight is off of you, you don’t feel scrutinized, so it’s easier to have a calm discussion.

Try taking a drive, going on a walk together, or even turning on a show. These can reduce pressure and make it much easier to start tough conversations.

Effectively approach a difficult conversation

Keep calm

If you feel panicky before tackling difficult conversations, learn to take a few deep breaths first. Or if you’ve already started an argument, taking a 30 min break might help, so both partners can gather their thoughts and emotions. By doing this, you improve your ability to communicate clearly and calmly.

Don’t just hear – listen

When both individuals are upset, all they really hear is their own opinions. If you truly want to work on the relationship, listen to your partner. They may have some good points that you need to hear.

Be vulnerable, not defensive

Understand that your partner might feel hurt, neglected, or just confused by the topic you bring up. It’s important to understand and own your own emotions as well as your partner’s. By being honest about how you are both feeling, you can get to the heart of the issue.

Only argue about one thing

Sometimes when an argument gets going, it’s easy to tack on 3 or 4 other things that have been bothering you. Hold back! Adding chaos will only halt the progress of the conversation.

Accept differences in an argument

Recognize that while your feelings are valid, there isn’t always a right and wrong. No couple agrees on every issue. What matters is that you agree on the “Big Picture” things, not an obscure argument from last night. Often, compromise is necessary to make a relationship work.

No matter the issue, remember that you and your partner are a team! By working with instead of against each other, you can avoid an argument and grow together, through any difficult conversation.

And if you’re just so annoyed you can’t talk with them right now, or you need to blow off some steam, you’ve come to the right place. Enter your thoughts at Supportiv, and get put into a chat with other people going through the same thing. It’s anonymous, troll-free, and instant.

You’ll definitely feel better after letting it out.