Sometimes things happen in life that we don’t want to deal with. They’re complicated & sticky. It can be easy to stick our heads in the ground, let it sort itself out, and pretend we don’t need to have a conversation. We all know that is not the best way to do it, but there’s fear in conflict. Avoiding & deflecting difficult things is a natural human instinct, but yesterday I was put in a situation where I overrode the fear & turned to honesty and vulnerability.
Yesterday, I met up with an old friend. We’ve been through a lot together – the awkward times, puberty, developing personalities, breakups, and finding ourselves. However, the past two years we’ve drifted. We’ve tried to keep our friendship afloat, but there were undeniable rifts getting in the way; canceled plans, unreturned texts, scheduled phone calls that went unanswered. The months went on and life continued until we planned to see each other yesterday.
In the past I would have approached our meeting anxious, armed with memorized facts & equipped to defend myself. However, I had a very grown-up adult realization. These conversations are going to happen throughout my life – whether it be in personal relationships, family, or at work. They can’t be ignored. It’s not a HARD conversation, but a REAL conversation. A conversation where we are empathetic to each other instead of regurgitating rehearsed lines in hopes to meeting our desired outcome.
The conversation went so well. Was it uncomfortable? YES. Awkward? 100%. Yet, I am so grateful for the dialogue this conversation started and the release it allowed for. Rather than pushing negative feelings aside, I’ve learned I shouldn’t shy away from the heaviness of my feelings. I need to be authentic, vulnerable and know I can tolerate big feelings, rather than trying to push them away with “everything’s going to be okay.”
There is no magic wand we can wave to make these conversations easy. However, there are some tools I found that gave me insights, clarity and a foundation from which to start these important but challenging conversations. The aim of course, is improving the outcome for both parties involved, especially when it involves giving emotional feedback to others.
Here are the helpful tips
- Don’t get defensive: The goal is to reach a sensible solution where you’re both satisfied & comfortable. When you get defensive, it’s a sign that you’re feeling threatened & may make the conversation more tense.
- Be empathetic: Empathy is simply acknowledging the other person’s emotion; not agreeing, judging or sympathizing. Not only will the other person will feel safe and more open to sharing, but you will be more present and interested.
- Show compassion: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes so you can imagine why & how they may feel the way they do.
- Be authentic and vulnerable: Your feelings are valid & need to be respected. Don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to undermine what you are feeling.
- Be direct, but kind about your needs: There is some discomfort with being direct, but it is powerful. Rather than dance around issues or trying to hint at getting someone to understand how you feel, if you are simply direct it saves a lot of wasted time and energy.
Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations. ~ Brené Brown