What do you do when a conversation gets awkward or tense?
For many of us, the answer is not clear. It may involve trying to get out of the conversation or getting angry. It could be that you try to laugh it off or ignore the tension and continue on.
But there’s a more effective approach, which we can learn from those who handle difficult conversations with grace and tact.
Let’s take a look at some of the common statements they use.
1) “Let’s find a win-win solution”
The best thing to say in many difficult conversations is that you want to work together.
The above phrase shows a level of class and restraint while also presenting a worthwhile objective:
Finding a solution that works for both of you.
2) “I believe we can find common ground”
This relates a lot to the previous statement as well, showing your willingness to find common ground and work together.
It may not be easy. But you’re making it clear that you’re ready to look for common ground if they are.
That’s certainly a start.
3) “I get where you’re coming from”
This lets the other person know that their pain is not weird or strange.
You understand where they’re coming from.
It can also be a classy way to respond to someone who is going on about outlandish ideas, conspiracies or paranoid thinking as a way to defuse the tension a bit.
4) “I hear your criticism and want to learn from it”
Insecure people tend to react to criticism with denial, anger or lashing out.
But by using the phrase above, you can let somebody know that you want to learn from their criticism.
You’re secure enough to resist an immediate emotional reaction.
5) “I value your friendship and don’t want to lose it”
This is a very smart and classy phrase to use in various kinds of uncomfortable situations.
You let them know that this friendship does matter to you and that you put a high value on it.
You’re letting them know that you want to work through whatever is going on even if it’s awkward or difficult.
6) “Let’s look at the facts and go through it step by step”
You can never go wrong with the facts, and suggesting this as a starting point is an excellent idea.
By returning to fundamental facts, you can stop a discussion from going off the rails and also calm down all involved.
Go back to basics, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how refreshing a conversation can be when it’s rooted in facts.
7) “What’s the root of the problem?”
Identifying the root of the problem between you can be a helpful measure.
By finding out what exactly is at stake, you can define the terms of the conversation.
You are showing a willingness to not look away from any conflict but to really find out what’s going wrong and why (between you or in this person’s life).
8) “I see this roadblock as an opportunity if we tackle it the right way”
When a conversation gets difficult, it doesn’t mean there’s no point to it.
Walking away isn’t always the answer. There may be a positive or worthwhile outcome that can happen.
It’s just a matter of how you tackle it and what you make out of the difficult topic or situation.
9) “I’m willing to hear you out, even if I don’t agree”
This is a classy and respectful thing to say.
You’re being honest that you don’t promise to agree but you do promise to listen.
What more can somebody realistically ask for?
10) “Let’s define our shared goal in this conversation”
What’s the point of your conversation?
Bringing this up is classy and savvy, because if you establish a reason you’re talking it makes things much less awkward.
It also leads to a shared desire to reach some kind of conclusion or outcome.
11) “I respect you, and I know you feel the same about me”
This lets the other person know that you respect them and know they do, too.
It shows that you value the other person while also granting them the assumption that they value you, too.
You’re on the same page as far as basic respect for each other. At least you’re saying you are.
This is a good way to move forward when a conversation gets very tricky.
12) “I’ve been through something similar and I can relate”
By saying this you provide honest empathy.
You aren’t claiming you understand exactly what they feel, but you do have experiences of a similar trial or occurrence.
You’re letting them know you can relate and you are willing to be there for them.
13) “I can hear that you’re angry, and I understand that”
This lets the other person know that you hear them and understand their anger.
It is a classy thing to say and provides an atmosphere of comfort and reassurance.
You aren’t demanding they be anything else, and you’re showing that you remain unruffled.
14) “I don’t know the solution to this, but I hear how much it’s upsetting you”
Admitting when you don’t know can be the classiest answer of all.
When a conversation is getting tense and ragged, there isn’t always an easy out or a way to calm things down.
Sometimes just acknowledging a person’s pain and letting them know you don’t know the answer is the most honest and helpful thing you can do.
15) “The past wasn’t what it should have been, but I know we can rebuild”
Whether it’s a relationship that didn’t work out well in the past or tragic events and disappointments that occurred, this is an empathetic and empowering way to phrase it.
You are allowing things to move on from past pain while still not hiding from it.
The past was hard. But it doesn’t have to define the future.
16) “Let’s plan something productive for the future”
Focusing on what you can plan for the future can be an empowering way to turn things around.
Often when a conversation reaches a real low point, it can go quickly downhill in an even worse way.
Focusing on what can be done for the future in a proactive way can be a great idea.
17) “Let’s take a step back and revisit this conversation when emotions have settled a bit”
Sometimes people need a breather. There’s nothing wrong with that.
This lets the other person (or people) know that you’d rather take a break and come back to this conversation at some other time.
You’re not wanting to continue the talk as it is right now, but you’re also keeping open the possibility of continuing it later, so this doesn’t have to come across as a rejection or put down.
18) “It’s OK for us to just sit quietly”
Some conversations don’t have an optimal response.
In certain cases, requesting a moment of Zen can be the best thing of all.
Maybe sitting in silence will help both of you recenter and find a bit more peace before going your own way or choosing to speak again.
Handling tricky situations with tact
There is no formula for how to handle tricky situations.
Every difficult conversation is difficult in its own way. But the phrases above can help in many of them.
By handling hard situations with grace, you end up feeling better about yourself and giving more space to the person you’re speaking with to also feel more comfortable and heard.
These phrases aim to convey empathy, openness, and a willingness to collaborate, reflecting the characteristics of a classy and composed communicator.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.