Repairing Tough Talks

Repairing Tough Talks

by Laura Westbrook, M.A.
Acorn Counseling Education Services
940.222.8703 •

We’ve all had them. Those “conversations” that turn heated with no warning.

At times, we’ve endured them. If honest, we’ve also instigated them. In the moment, that famous beatitude – “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (John 6:31) – morphs into fighting back, standing our ground, or worse, planning revenge. Emotional pain activates similar regions in the brain as physical pain, so that feeling you’ve been “kicked in the gut” after a fight rings true. Relational repair is possible, but requires intention. Here are some considerations:

Check IN. If conflict has escalated to the point where emotions rage, know you are physiologically flooded, and need a break. Research suggests the body needs 20 minutes to metabolize stress hormones before full cognitive functioning comes back “on-line.”

Re-evaluate. Was the conversation motivated by kindness or their best interest, or was there personal motive for power, prestige, or control? Was there intention with how the conversation was bridged, or was it nuanced with superiority, judgement, or contempt? Initial presentation usually determines direction.

Increase Perspective.
Create space to consider others’ points of view. It is not just standing in their shoes, it is getting into their heart and soul – truly understanding their thoughts and feelings. Perspective is the key to creating more empathy, and changes hearts.

Take Responsibility.
Owning mistakes models honesty and openness. Follow by restating your position using “I” statements rather than “you,” and focusing on your own feelings, thoughts and needs. It helps to keep blame and defensiveness at bay.

Laura Westbrook, M.A. is an LPC-Intern supervised by Christy Graham, LPC-S RPT-S at Acorn Counseling Education Services in Corinth. She enjoys working with couples, individuals and children.

Contact her at :, or

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