Tackling Difficult Conversations

Tips for Talks We Dread, with Dr Kieran Kennedy

“I’ve been meaning to say something for ages”

“I know, I know. I need to just tell her”

“Maybe if I just give it time, thing’s will get better?”

“I wish I’d said something when I could have”

Whether it’s confronting a thorn in the side of a relationship, or a concern we’ve got for a friend, plucking up the courage to open the topic or have that conversation can be tough. Not just for you, but for all of us. Difficult conversations are, just that, difficult and for good reason.

More often than not difficult conversations are ones where the topic leaves us, and/or others, feeling vulnerable. As difficult conversations are often ones with strong emotion attached, it can be harder to remain rational. The biggies are telling someone how you truly feel, disagreeing or saying no, starting/ending a relationship, talking about mental health or asking for help.

Remove the Fear

There’s a common misconception that difficult conversations might act as means of making things worse. These fears are understandable, but in most instances they’re unfounded. Asking and talking about difficult topics more often than not leads to things getting better, or at the very least becoming more clear and moving forward. 

Talking about mental health doesn’t make it worse


Although many people think that the more we talk about mental health, self-harm or suicide the worse those things become – this actually isn’t the case. Research shows most often it’s the exact opposite; asking the question and talking to someone (for ourselves or someone we’re worried about) often makes things better. Asking about someone’s safety, or talking about self-harm and suicide, has not been shown to increase someone’s risk – if anything they reduce it.

two girls lying stomach-down on bed looking dazed
“Talking about mental health doesn’t make it worse” @Drkierankennedy

Be Clear

Difficult conversations often centre on topics that are messy, complicated and awash with difficult emotion. A big tip can be to really sit down and nut things out before you talk to someone you are worried about – writing it down can help organise cluttered and complicated thoughts.

Practicing what you might say, and how you might handle different responses can be helpful too.

Outline Where We’re Coming From First

It is not uncommon to feel like your loved one will feel attacked or become defensive during these conversations – leading in with where the conversation is coming from can help hugely here.

Let them know you are bringing this up because you care and want to support them as best you can. Coming first from a place of care and concern can often take the defensiveness fuel down a notch – start with them why, and then lead into the what.

Get support

Hashing things out with someone in our inner circle can really help in the lead up to difficult conversations. Many of our fears around difficult conversations sound less convincing when we work through them with someone we trust. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or seek out some profession opinion from a counsellor or psychologist. It can work wonders for how to go about it, but also for knowing we’ve got someone in our corner should things not go exactly to plan.

For more advice from Dr Kieran Kennedy check out his Instagram @drkierankennedy.

Tara Mckenzie

Like many of Bondi Beauty's readers, Tara has two main passions; health and beauty. As a group fitness instructor you'll either find her dripping in sweat during a HIIT class or with a full face of bronze makeup. If you meet Tara in person be prepared to act excited as she tells you all about your star sign and why you should start carrying a rose quartz around in your purse.

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