Revealing how you really feel and what you really want is a life-long practice that sets you up for more good things to come. Regardless of what happens or how the other person responds, making your true self visible will only make you stronger, healthier and more at peace with yourself.

Setting the Stage for a Productive Conversation

1. Bring it up. It’s wishful thinking to hope that the other person will broach a hard topic. In some cases, he or she may not even be aware of the need. That means, like it or not, it’s up to you.

2. Be clear on your intention. Are you discussing a sensitive topic to make a decision, reveal what you’ve already decided, make a request, or something else? Being clear about why you are having the conversation-and what you hope to get out of it-will help you frame what you’re about to say.

3. Be mindful of your mindset. Sidestep the tendency to blame and assume you know exactly what is going on. Leave room in your frame of mind for discovery and revelation. Stay curious and envision how you’d like your relationship to be after the conversation.

4. Rehearse. It can be helpful to practice your conversation by writing in a journal or talking it through with a trusted friend. This will help you become more familiar with your feelings and point of view, and help you relax before you say the hard thing.

5. Set the tone: Use “I” messages. “You” statements tend to assign blame. Then take a deep breath and begin.

Saying the hard thing is like any other exercise: every time you do it, you’re building muscle…and your hard work will unquestionably pay off in more meaningful relationships in the end.