This is a topic I talk at length about in my book, How To Stop Feeling Like Shit: 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back From Happiness. Most people struggle with having hard conversations, as well as setting boundaries. These can be some hard lessons! Enjoy…
Let’s talk about something that doesn’t always kick ass: Tough, awkward conversations.
And I’ll start with a truth: most of us don’t have enough of them. I was just talking to a friend recently who had just moved in with her cousin and was feeling like she had no say in the space. That her cousin/roommate was messy and had her stuff everywhere. So my friend was upset and complaining at length about it.
And I asked, “So what do you plan on doing about it?” And my friend laughed and said she planned on doing nothing. Basically, just continue to complain about it. That having the conversation would be awkward and uncomfortable.
And I wonder– how many of us do this every damn day? How many of us avoid awkward conversations so often that it’s affecting our lives way more negatively that we even know?
You may think I’m nuts- but I think it’s all of us.
I’ll bet you reading this can think of at least one awkward conversation you need to have. Your mom does ____, it bugs the shit out you and you wish she’d stop. Your partner keeps joking with you about ____ and you actually don’t think it’s funny, it hurts your feelings. Your boss is ______ and you really wish she wouldn’t do that. Your best friend is always late and you need to ask her to try harder to be prompt to respect your time.
Almost every single one of my private clients over the last 8 years has had some kind of conversation that’s needed to take place that they’re avoiding. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. Because they aren’t sure what the outcome will be. What if they other person gets mad? Says no? Gets their feelings hurt? Breaks up with them? Or (insert whatever worst-case scenario you can think of).
Now I’m not going to sit here with my pom-poms cheering you on and just telling you to go out and do it. If that’s all you needed you would have done it by now. What you need are some hard truths and a plan:
Hard truth #1: You have no idea how the conversation will go. No one can promise you it will go well or turn out in your favor. Booo, I know.
Hard truth #2: The problem and/or the way you feel about this will not just go away because you avoid it like a public toilet that desperately needs to be flushed. It actually can get worse. Way worse.
Hard truth #3: I wish this wasn’t the case, but even when you get the tools and do work on yourself, the conversations are still hard. What actually gets better is how you feel having done it. And lo and behold, in most cases your relationship with the other person gets better too.
And now, how do we do this? How do we walk into these difficult conversations without spontaneously combusting with fear and anxiety? (For the record, I don’t believe this has ever happened in real life). Here’s some steps:
- Get clear on what it is you need to say and try to avoid blaming, criticizing, and making the other person wrong. Instead of saying, “I really think you’re a jerk when you say this to me” you can say, “You probably have no idea, but it actually hurts my feelings when you say that. Can I please ask that you stop?”
- Let go of any attachment to the outcome. Of course you want it to go your way. Of course you want your partner to grovel with apologies or your boss to make big changes because of your requests. But, that doesn’t always happen. The truth is some people get uncomfortable with you being vulnerable and in that moment they…panic. Which brings me to…
- Get clear on what you need to walk away from the conversation having done in order to make yourself feel proud. Most of the time it’s simply making your needs be heard. Whether it’s received well is up to the other person, but all you are responsible for is YOU.
- Have the conversation at the right time. The discussion is going to be awkward enough, do it when you and the other person can hear it. Not at 11 pm at night when you and your husband are beat tired, not first thing on a Monday morning when you know your boss is walking into a meeting and a million emails, not when you call your mom and you can tell she’s shopping at Ross on 10% off Tuesday. Your timing is important.
I believe a lot of change comes from awkward conversations. We need to have more of them. It’s understandable that you’re scared. So is the person receiving it. And let’s be honest, most of us are scared many moments in the day and you live through those moments too. Change doesn’t happen by staying silent. So, what do you choose?
Resources from this podcast:
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