Is there an important issue you need to discuss with someone in your life, but you are worried about how they will react?
If so, you are not alone. Most people are afraid to have difficult conversations, and avoid them at all costs. They run through the conversation in their mind like a movie, playing both roles. They convince themselves that they already know how the conversation will go. They choose the worst-case scenario as the outcome, ultimately convincing themselves not to have the conversation at all. So instead, they chicken out, allow emotions to fester and continue to be unhappy or unresolved with the situation.
Yes, hard conversations can be scary, but no one knows how a conversation will go. And it never goes the way you think it will. The real issue is that people want to be in control of the conversation and how it unfolds. I'm sorry, but life doesn't work that way.
The Outcome of Any Conversation Is a Mystery
Recently, I had to have a tough conversation with a friend of mine. She came to me and shared how a mutual male friend (whom she liked very much) told her that he liked her and that they could potentially date. Naturally, she was very excited to hear this news. When I heard the story, I knew something wasn't right. I had spoken to the man three weeks earlier and specifically asked him about her and he had told me he wasn't interested in her romantically.
Now, I didn't want to hurt my friend's feelings, but I do not believe in lying, especially lying to cover up someone else's lies. I didn't want to upset her or get myself and him in trouble, but I was not going to sit with the information and pretend I didn't notice or hear a contradiction.
I sat my friend down and told her I had something difficult to say to her and I was telling her because I cared about her. I shared with her about my conversation with him and that it was contradictory to what she was saying. I told her I would speak to him and find out what was truly accurate. Also, I'd tell him that I had spoken to her and knew he said something different to her.
When I had the conversation with him, I explained we were in the middle of a small dilemma. Without accusing him of anything, I laid out the facts of what he said and what she said. Then I asked him to explain what was true. With some reluctance and a bit of a verbal dance, he admitted that he had told me the truth. He was just being nice to my friend and it wasn't his real feelings.
I told him that it was not actually nice and that the truth was the only way to go. After our conversation, he really saw and admitted how he misleads people in his life with kindness as a way to make them feel good about themselves even though it's not his truth. He finally got that was lying. He promised he would talk to my friend and tell her the truth.
He called her and apologized for what happened and explained everything. They had a deep, connected conversation about their friendship and she thanked him for being honest.
I didn't know how the conversation was going to turn out, but I knew I needed to have it. Ultimately, it brought my friend and me closer, because she knows I will always be honest with her. It also evolved her friendship with him because they now both know the truth about their relationship. By getting caught in a good way, he learned a lesson and made a promise not to mislead people anymore.
If you avoid conversations and hide your truth, you aren't being the real you. You're being fake, and that relationship is fake. You are turning you, them and the relationship into a puppet show in which you are the puppet master. You probably think this will save your relationship, but actually, it prevents intimacy. Sharing yourself and being real with a person is how you build intimacy, and it's the basis for connected relationships.
I know it can be scary to confront and follow through on difficult conversations but there is freedom on the other side of them. Here are steps to having a tough conversation with someone.
Steps to Having a Tough Conversation
- Set aside time and ask permission to have the conversation with the person.
P.S. There really is a method to learning how to speak up and be heard. Please register for our 4-week teleseries The Art of Tough Conversations. Learn the method and get inspired to feel and deal with the most important things in your life.
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