IACM 2022 Abstract Book »
Difficult Conversations in Personal and Political Life
Navigating difficult conversations is essential for effective conflict management in personal and professional life. However, little is known about the psychological experience of difficult conversations. Across three pre-registered studies among both laypeople and U.S. politicians, we investigate three central questions: (1) What moral values are relevant to difficult conversations? (2) How does the nature of these conflicts differ across contexts and cultures? (3) How are difficult conversations experienced and resolved? We find that most difficult conversations are experienced as moral conflicts between communicating honestly and demonstrating concern for others (e.g., being loyal, avoiding harm to others, preserving social harmony). Therefore, communicating honestly is typically perceived to promote long-term learning and growth, potentially at the cost of one’s relationships. These perceived conflicts differentially influence honest communication across contexts. This research deepens our theoretical understanding of difficult conversations and sheds light on causes of misinformation in the political sphere.