How To Solve A Sensitive Issue Without Blowing It Up

How To Solve A Sensitive Issue Without Blowing It Up
Use these three guiding principles that will help you navigate even the toughest conversations easily.

Have you ever told your partner that you want them to lose weight?

Me neither – I like to live.

Some topics are as sensitive as fresh sunburn and have the destructive power of two average-sized nuclear bombs:

  • Finances
  • Sex & intimacy
  • Past relationships
  • The monster-in-law
  • Family planning & parenting
  • Stuff that involves triggers & insecurities

Any recurring issues that stacked a massive emotional charge over time

The worst? You can’t avoid them. Discussing them is fundamental to any relationship.

But how you approach them makes the difference between an adult conversation and a full-on blowout.

Here are my best techniques to save yourself from escalating arguments and instead find solutions together.

How To Take Everyone’s Ego Out Of The Equation

The biggest problem that leads to arguments is our ego.

Its job is to make us feel safe and protect us from repeating the suffering we experienced in the past. If someone points out your mistakes but you learned that you’re only worthy of love if you perform and are perfect, that raises your ego's defenses. It will do what it can to make the other’s point invalid.

It has noble intentions, but unfortunately, it often makes us defensive, deny our flaws, or outright attack the other.

“Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” – Ambrose Bierce

The trick to not triggering it is to create a safe space – a place in which you feel no need to defend yourself.

That’s when people can open up, share their true feelings, and admit their mistakes.

  • Prepare and calm your nervous system
    Make sure you have ample time and aren’t stressed when you bring up these topics. Take a few deep breaths before you open the space.
  • Listen instead of fixing
    You don’t need to answer right away or solve problems. Just give the other space to express what they want to.
  • Stay with yourself and don’t interrupt or blame
    If something triggers you, that’s within you – act accordingly. When you share something, do it without accusing the other.

A great way to open the space is to start with: “Hey, I’d like to have a conversation with you because our relationship is important to me.”

Make it safe and focus on finding common ground – that takes the ego out of the equation.

This Conversation Technique Will Make You Unattackable

One of the major human flaws is that we seek solutions to our problems outside ourselves.

But everything is within us. Our triggers, problems, emotions, perspectives, and even the reality we believe in – it’s all inside ourselves.

So when you tell others to act differently because their behavior hurts you, it creates conflict because you attack their reality.

I know you have no ill intention – but there’s a better way to communicate what’s on your heart and mind.

It’s called an I-Statement.

Simply answer the following questions for yourself:

  • What have I observed?
  • How does that make me feel and why?
  • What would I wish for in the future?

Then, share the answers with your partner from an “I perspective.”

“I noticed you often remind me to do things although I already said I’d do them. This makes me feel micromanaged and also takes away my drive to do what you asked me to. I’d appreciate it if I could do things on my timeline in the future or if we could just agree on a deadline and I’m free to organize myself as long as I stick to it.”

No accusation. No blame. No expectation. You’re just sharing how you feel, so there's no reason to attack, defend, or argue.

Add a little “How do you feel about that?” after and you’ll minimize the chances of escalation.

“Communication is about being real. Sharing pieces of yourself that may not be comfortable, but are necessary for the growth of the relationship.” – Les Brown

Yes, it’s hard to make yourself that vulnerable – but you’ll either move forward together or learn that the other person is not someone you can have a civil conversation with.

Either way, you win.

Use This Simple Principle To Make Escalation Impossible

I love it when someone brings up stuff from the past.

It’s my favorite right after chewing on my sweaty socks after a workout and getting sandblasted up the butt. Fun times.

It used to happen a lot with my ex-girlfriends. “Last week you’ve done this, last month it was that, yadda yadda yadda.” It was like pouring gasoline onto hot coals, turning a difficult conversation into a full forest fire.

Of course, I tried to defend myself – a crucial mistake because I gave up my frame.

My… what? Let me explain.

In my first semester at university, I was at a house party. The host had put up a big, white canvas on a wall with markers next to it so people could leave their signatures. Since the party was semi-public on Facebook, hundreds of people were there and the canvas quickly filled up.

It only took one guy to slip with the marker and draw on the wall behind it – an hour later, the whole wall looked like a children’s coloring book.

One small break of the frame led to a huge escalation.

Just like the canvas created boundaries for where people could draw, a conversational frame dictates the tone, content, voice, context, and perception of a conversation. When someone tries to divert the conversation, perhaps by bringing up stuff from the past, they try to break that frame to get them into a better position. And when you pick up that thread, you buy into it.

Once that happens, the damage is done because you accepted the escalation.

How do you avoid this? By practicing frame control.

  • Clearly state what the conversation is about
    “Hey, you might have a valid point there, but I think it’s best if we stick to the topic at hand. Once that’s solved, I’d love to look at what you just brought up.”
  • Don’t let your triggers take over
    I know it’s tempting to retaliate, escalate, and get defensive – but the moment you do that, you accept the escalating frame. Stay calm, no matter what the other does.
  • Draw healthy boundaries
    Don’t let others disrespect you because it starts small and gets bigger over time. The moment you notice, state clearly that you need the tone to stay respectful. If they don’t adjust, remove yourself from the situation.

“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

Frame control can be tough to master, but it’s one of the most powerful tools you can learn.

And as with all things mastery, it starts with mastering yourself.

How To Talk About Sensitive Topics Without Escalation And Arguments

Some topics are hard to talk about no matter what.

That’s okay. Everything you want is on the other side of a few hard conversations. And if you know how to approach them, they’ll go much smoother than expected.

  1. Create a Safe Space – it brings down the ego’s defense mechanisms and helps you connect as human beings.
  2. Use “I-Statements” – share your inner world rather than blaming or attacking the other.
  3. Practice Frame Control – keep the conversation focused on what matters instead of accepting more explosive material.

Opinions can divide you, but the right communication will always bring you closer together.

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