The first time my husband and I went on vacation to Kauai, we stayed in a studio apartment attached to a private home. We decided not to stay in a resort hotel so we could have some real peace and quiet.

The first morning we were there, we were woken up by a rooster crowing loudly in the yard at oh, about 4:00 a.m. Okay, we were on vacation, and vacation to me means sleeping in. So, the rooster presented some immediate feelings of conflict, maybe even a bit of anger. We went out on the deck to see the landlord yelling and chasing after the rooster in the yard. We didn’t know whether to laugh or be more upset. And, yes, the picture here is THE rooster in the middle of the conflict.

So we looked at eat other — should we yell at the landlord so he knew we are unhappy that he didn’t warn us about the 4:00 a.m. wake-up call? Clearly he knew it was a problem and hadn’t told us. Or, should we let it go? We were, after all, on vacation.

Should I  have this conflict conversation?

Many times we jump to try to resolve a conflict when the answer to this question may very well be no.  We immediately react with something like “hey, why did this happen to me”?  or we get angry and show it. That immediately puts the other person on the defense, and may even damage the relationship – damage that you’ll either have to repair later, or live with.

To help you think through your decision of whether you need to have a hard conversation in the first place, here are some questions you can ask yourself before you step into a difficult conversation.

Think of a conversation that you think may need to happen – or review one you’ve had lately. Write down your answers to the following questions – be honest with yourself:

1) Why do I think I should have this conversation?

What do you want to gain from having this conversation?  It is important enough to go to bat for what is important to you?

2) What is the worst that could happen if I have this conversation?

Think through the worse-case scenarios of addressing this issue. Could you ruin a family event? Lose a friend? Make a landlord mad at me? Make the situation worse?  Be as specific as you can and weigh out the risks if things don’t go the way you plan.

3) What is the best that could happen if I address this issue?

What do you hope will happen? What would be the absolute best solution to this problem? Is there a solution to this problem?

4) If I do nothing, what will happen?

If this conversation doesn’t happen, what are the consequences? Are they worth risking? Does it really matter?

5) If I decide to have this conversation, how can I do it well?

Think about what you need to say and how to say it and practice first. Don’t be unprepared!  Focus on the issue at hand and not the person.  Be respectful and don’t be unprepared.  Take an evening to think about it.  Your perspective may change in the morning.

So what happened with the landlord?  We decided not to react immediately, but we did decide to have a conversation with the landlord later that morning.  First we went back to bed.

Later in the day we went down and had a friendly discussion over coffee about the morning surprise. We suggested he let future guests know ahead of time, maybe even have some fun in the descriptions of the property. That way they would know what to expect, could bring earplugs, and be prepared to embrace the experience. He was grateful for the feedback – he had been feeling bad about it and didn’t know what to do without risking losing some business.

The result was a win-win. He got some good feedback and we made a friend. And, we learned throughout our trip that roosters are pretty much everywhere – except resorts – on the island.  Now we know.


Betty LochnerBetty Lochner is the Owner and President of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home, and 52 Communication Tips.

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