We can connect with anyone and work through any fight or disagreement if we just stay open and respond with love.

  1. Make the person feel safe

Tell the person that you care about them, and that you respect their opinions.

Find a mutual purpose. Tell the person that you’re going to have a difficult conversation with them, but the purpose of the conversation is so you can work out your differences and have a stronger relationship – something that you both want.

When people have mutual respect and purpose, they can relax and absorb what you’re saying.

  1. Be specific with your criticisms

Vague criticisms are hard to address because the person may not be sure what we’re referring to. Specific feedback allows people to easily identify and change whatever is being addressed.

Criticize actions but do not attack the person. For example, we can tell someone that the report they made was crap, but should not call them a stupid person. When we’re talking about emotionally charged topics, it’s easy to get angry, and shift from talking to attacking the other person.

The moment we lose mutual respect, people no longer feel safe and cannot dialogue. When we get angry, we need to go back to making the person feel loved and safe, and reaffirming a mutual purpose, before we can continue.

  1. Separate facts from opinion

Start by stating facts first – i.e what was seen or heard. A hotel receipt is a fact – the husband having an affair is only opinion at this stage. Facts are a safe place to start because it’s a shared place of agreement.

Having agreed on the facts, we can tell the story that we have created. Our story is not a fact. We want to state our story as a hypothesis. We do not want to state our story with the vigor and certainty of a fact.

We need to pause and listen to the other side tell their story and interpretation of the facts. The key is to understand other potential meanings that can be drawn from the same facts and construct a bigger, shared story.

  1. Be prepared to be wrong

In every situation no one is 100% right or 100% wrong. There are things both sides could improve. Ask yourself. What did I do that led to this conflict? How could I have approached this situation better?

Listen closely to criticisms and reflect on what is being said.

If you’re right, great, you don’t have to change. Just because somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing doesn’t mean you need to change.

But if you discover something you can improve on, great, you’ve learnt something.

Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Sure you have to give up your good opinion of yourself. But it’s short term pain. You face the pain today, so you can improve for a better tomorrow.

  1. Be candid

Share all of your thoughts and feelings. All information needs to be out in the open so other people can fully understand us.

We often avoid having difficult conversations, we hold things inside and go silent, until we can take it no longer, then we explode and start attacking others. Nobody can understand our story if we’re silent, or if we’re attacking them.

  1. Be yourself

When we’re really honest, other people trust us. If we put on a phony behavior in order to please people, they may love our behavior, but they cannot love us because we’ve hidden our real selves behind this artificial behavior.

Even if others love our phony behavior, we cannot receive their love. It is poisoned by the knowledge that the love is for the image we’ve created, not for ourselves. We have to continually be on guard and maintain our image so that we continue to be loved.

During university, I was memorizing pickup lines in order to impress girls. Conversation starters like:

The girls would like me at first. But the problem is I could only memorize so many lines. After the first date I’d run out of things to say. The girls would be weirded out because initially I’d been the funny gossip man, then I’d turn into this shy, nerdy kid who liked talking about philosophy.

By hiding behind these pick up lines, I never had to develop my personality. People didn’t get to know me for me. So I decided to drop the pick up lines.

It’s better to be hated being yourself than to be loved being someone else. So always be yourself when you’re working through a fight or disagreement with someone.

  1. Devise an action plan.

We need to take action or all the talk would be for nothing. Define what needs to be done and by what date, and agree on how to follow up and be accountable.

Speaking of action plan, take a minute to:

Think about someone in your life that you’ve been closed off to

Someone you have been judgmental towards. They could be a friend or a family member. What has been stopping you from being close to this person? What excuses have you been making?

Pick up the phone right now – call them.

Let them know that you care about them, and would like to spend more time with them. Let them know that you will be there for them. And that if they are ever going through any problems they can call you anytime and you’ll be there to listen.

Say whatever you need to say. Say it in your own words. Dare to be open, to be vulnerable, to be real. That’s the foundation of any healthy relationship.