One of the things that makes difficult conversations so difficult is that there are actually multiple conversations going on. In a truly tough talk, there is probably:
1) The Feelings Conversation: Narrative spun out of the reality of how I am / we are feeling
2) The “What Happened” Conversation: Narrative establishing the facts the conflict
3) The Identity Conversation: Narrative and analysis about what this means for how I see myself / us.
If two people are stuck in different “conversations,” they can neither attend to each other nor communicate effectively.
So, in a relationship where conflict is possible, it is an enormous help to have the ability to talk about and refer back to these three conceptual hooks before a conflict begins. (For more, check out the book on difficult conversations.)