Communicating About Tough Issues

Effective communication skills are particularly critical when dealing with difficult issues. Consider the following strategies for communicating about tough issues.


  • Talk early. People—especially children— often become aware of an issue sooner than you think. By dealing with an issue sooner rather than later, it is easier to maintain your objectivity and self-control, prevent the issue from escalating, and avoid frustration, stress, and misinformation.
  • Talk privately. Set up a time to talk in a private place, where you won’t be overheard or interrupted.
  • Initiate the conversation. You may need to be the one to start the conversation.This can be uncomfortable for many people. Consider saying something such as “I’d like to get your input on something that I think will help us work together more effectively,” or “I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)?”
  • Think ahead of time about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Be specific about what the issue is and give concrete examples of things you have observed and the impact they have had. If you feel uncomfortable discussing an issue, you may want to practice what you would like to say ahead of time or even role play the conversation with a trusted friend or colleague.
  • Explore the other person’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This will help you understand how the other person perceives the issue, which can help you address your concerns in a way that takes into account his or her perspective. In addition, allowing the other person to express his or her point of view and be heard will help him or her feel valued, reduce feelings of defensiveness, and encourage the other person to reciprocate by being open to hearing what you have to say.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Communication Skills for Healthy Relationships.” For more information, please visit

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