Not long ago I had to have a difficult conversation with a close friend.
I’d been putting it off. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but I was going to have to say things that were hard to say.
Every time I rehearsed the scenario in my mind I’d begin to doubt myself.
Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe I could continue to ignore what had been bothering me. Maybe I could just disappear and hope to never hear from her again (not likely).
The wiser part of me knew these were all excuses and tricks made up by the fear of the ego — fear of what might happen when I have a grown-up, difficult conversation.
Would it get out of hand and turn into an argument? Would I get defensive? Would I even be able to say the words that were swirling around my head?
Next time you’re faced with (or avoiding) a difficult conversation, ask yourself these two questions to better ground yourself and see the bigger picture.
Question 1: Why do I feel compelled to have the conversation?
Be sure the motivation isn’t coming from a wounded or an unhealthy place.
Do you bristle at authority? Was your ego bruised? Is there a need to be right or to have the last word?
If any of these apply, your efforts are better spent addressing these issues, and save the conversation for a later date.
After you sort out a motivation that’s coming from your ego, you’ll may no longer feel compelled to have the conversation.
Here’s a tip, if asking yourself why you need to have the conversation makes you feel defensive or argumentative, your motivation is coming from your ego, and not from your most authentic, healthiest self.
At the end of answering this first question, if you calmly feel in your heart you need to speak up, then it’s important to have the conversation.
Otherwise, tend to those parts of you that are hijacking the show and demanding attention.
Question 2: Why have I been reluctant to have the conversation?
Is there a fear of rejection? A need to be liked or to be popular? A fear of losing control? A fear of hurting someone’s feelings? A worry that you don’t have what it takes or don’t deserve to speak up?
Getting clear on these insights will help you move past them. Fear has a great way of making us feel paralyzed.
Overcome these fears by asking yourself, “If this was my best friend, what would I suggest she or he say?”
Write down the answer and study it like a script to help you navigate your own conversation. Remind yourself that if this issue truly is important to you, you deserve to be heard.
Quite often these conversations go better than you fear, and all parties can have a sense of relief.
If you deliver your message with clarity and respect, and if you avoid all attacks or name-calling, you can be at peace, even if the other person doesn’t react well.
They’ll sort that out for themselves.
If you go off script and get angry or defensive, make a simple apology, and get right back to your script.
Calm assertiveness is the state you’re in — ok I borrowed that part from Cesar Millan — but it works.
There’s a line to be drawn that separates voicing every single complaint and making our thoughts known in areas that are important to us.
Exploring the two questions above will help you determine which side of that line you fall.
In the end, everyone deserves honesty, and as difficult as it may feel, we owe it to ourselves and to the people in our lives to be honest…
…honest with them, and honest with ourselves.
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