One of the inevitable results of being a grownup in this world is that you will often be faced with the “opportunity” to have difficult conversations with other humans.
I like to think of these as “opportunities” because, despite being an attorney, I am not a huge fan of confrontation and I really don’t like upsetting other people. These are an opportunity for me to flex muscles I don’t use very often and operate outside my comfort zone.
I find that one of the reasons people avoid having difficult conversations is because they want the other person to like them. They don’t want to be thought of as a bitch or as difficult. They are afraid the individual will bad mouth them to others and they don’t want those other people to judge them too or, worst of all, agree that they really are a bitch on a power trip.
These conversations are scary because it forces us to let go of what other people might think of us. If the conversation is important to you, you like your reasons for having the conversation, and you are in a good emotional space to have the conversation (read: not foaming at the mouth), then have the damn conversation.
Stop worrying about what the other person will think about you.
The beauty of this is that it is an investment in the authentic you. The more you live with authenticity and stay true to your values other people will see it and grow to respect it. That makes it a lot more difficult for bad gossip to find traction. But regardless, we can’t control what other people say, do, or think. The only thing we can control is how we show up.
So the choice really becomes: are you willing to live accordance with your truth or would you prefer to continue living a lie (i.e., ignoring the issue, avoiding the conversation, and pretending everything is “fine”?).
In my experience, any time we try to ignore what we really think and feel about a situation, it simply compounds itself and grows stronger until we blow up. That’s an even better way to maintain your spotless reputation, no?
Don’t ignore the feelings. They will come back. We’ve all had those fights where the other party pulls 1,000 old fights and gripes out of their back pocket leaving you dumbfounded. You can’t fight a battle on 1,000 fronts. If it is important to you, discuss it with the other person or forever relinquish your right to bring it up at a later date as part of another fight. Period.
In that sense, having those difficult conversations now and foreclosing a future explosion is a kindness to everyone involved. Shifting your mindset to this is going to be better for our relationship and everyone around us will allow you to approach the conversation from a much healthier mental space. Often times, we convince ourselves This is going to go terribly wrong; this is going to be a huge fight and we waste so much time and energy ramping up for some battle royale that never comes. Appreciate that this is a positive exercise and that your intentions are to improve the relationship. Stop expecting the worst.
Focus on the WHY.
Whenever I am gearing up for a difficult conversation, I ask myself, What is it that I want? Why am I having this discussion? I usually can find that the true intention is to be honest and my “why” is usually because this relationship is important to me and I want us to have a healthy relationship. I focus my energy there instead of ruminating about how frustrated I am about XYZ.
From there I can go into the conversation seeing the big picture and understanding why the exchange is critical. It allows me to approach the conversation from a place of curiosity and respect.
Stop worrying about what the other person is going to think about you or how they are going to feel if you are honest with them. You can’t control their thoughts or emotions so stop trying to.
Be in the moment with an open attitude and a sincere willingness to try and understand the other person’s point of view. Make a conscious effort to stop thinking of what you are going to say next and just absorb what is being said. Try to understand what is going on.
Just. Be. Curious.
I sometimes imagine myself as a behavioral specialist examining the other person and trying to understand what is going on with them. It allows me to remove myself from the situation and come to it from a different perspective.
Be quiet, be curious, and invest in the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with another other person. You must flex the muscle to make it stronger!
Need support gearing up for a difficult conversation? Schedule a free consultation and clear out the mental chatter before you dive in. What do you have to lose?