Difficult Conversations Could Solve Most of Our Problems
I’m willing to bet a majority of those reading this are currently and actively avoiding tough conversations they need to have, with important people in their lives.
You know the kind of conversations I’m referring to. They’re the ones we’ve played time and time over again in our heads but refuse to initiate in realtime.
Those we avoid at all costs, as we talk about trivial things nobody cares about instead. The weather, that news story, what’s for dinner — they’re all just inadequate substitutes for the things we want to say so badly, but can’t seem to bring ourselves to.
The conversations we’re avoiding or are running from, are the same ones that could potentially alter our entire lives if we were only able to find a way to finally hold them.
Having them would free up so much mental space. It’d give us back the time we subconsciously spend imagining how they might go — exclusively in our hectic little heads. But sadly, rarely do we venture out to actively hold these conversations we don’t want to have, therefore nothing changes.
We plan and play these conversations out, over-prepare for them — but rarely do we just start them. We don’t want to be on the giving or receiving end of them, even though we know both ends of these conversations can be as beneficial as they are uncomfortable.
We need to have these important and potential life-altering talks with our wives, husbands, parents, kids, employers, and employees. With our neighbors, friends and roommates — and so many others we come across on a daily or regular basis.
There’s that thing we want to say so badly to our co-worker, as well as a civil and constructive way to say it. Doing so would lessen the burden and lighten the heaviness of our workday, if only because we’d no longer be carrying around the weight of the words we’ve held onto for so long. They’ve become the crosses we’ve bared for longer than we care to remember, despite the fact we never had to.
The first time we felt the burning urge to say something or initiate these difficult conversations, we could have. Doing so — though not easy — likely would have been far less burden-some than not doing so has become.
It takes only a second to start a difficult conversation. The majority of them would be over in a matter of minutes. They’re rarely as difficult in real life as we’ve made them out to be in our minds. With each opportunity to have these conversations we let pass, with the people we need to — we give them more power than they have. This goes for both the conversations themselves and the people we need to have them with alike.
So, we continue to allow ourselves to suffer in silence, instead of saying what’s on our minds and has been for as long as we can remember. We have so much to say but opt to hold it all in. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Our fear, that’s why. We’ve become slaves to what we’re afraid of. Indentured servants to our insecurities. We’ve voluntarily become cheap prostitutes to imaginary conversations we’re irrational enough to believe we know the result of — despite the fact, none of us have a properly working crystal ball.
Think about the last difficult conversation you had, chances are it wasn’t nearly as bad as you’d thought it would be. We often suffer far more in our imaginations and heads than we ever do IRL or real-time.
We tell ourselves we’re not having the conversations we should or need to, for all kinds of noble reasons. We want to believe it’s because we don’t want to hurt or burden our loved ones, it’s not our place to say it or would be selfish on our part to express how we truly feel. It’s all bullshit though. The reason we’re not having them is due to our own irrational fears.
Even if these conversations would run the risk of hurting a loved one’s feelings, that’s not why we’re not having them. Not primarily, anyway.
We do and say things that hurt or bother others pretty regularly for our own reasons, no matter how shallow or self-centered. So please — save your self-righteous and dignifying reasons for someone who will buy them. I’m not in the market for the likes of such, I know better.
I know better because I also have conversations I need to have with others, that I’m instead holding within. I have the good and righteous reasons for why I’m not having them — and then the real reasons — which almost always boil down to fear. Fear is the square root of so many of both our actions and inactions. And we’ll never be able to conquer or overcome that fear if we can’t even get honest about it first. So I’ll start with where my underlying fears usually lay.
Fear of the outcome. Fear of losing people. Fear of angering or upsetting them and the consequences doing so could have on my life. Fear they won’t love or even like me very much anymore if I speak freely or told them the whole truth. Simply and precisely put, because of my unsubstantiated and irrational fears.
Humans have the potential ability and proper tools for communicating better than any other species or known life form. Our minds, mouths and the languages we’ve created with them are truly miraculous and remarkable. Words can be incredibly powerful — but not if we hold onto them or refuse to use them in the right way and for the right reasons.
We have the ability and potential to communicate better and more clearly than any other life form — yet are often so bad at doing so. It is one of the great paradoxes and ironies of being human.
Animals act on their instincts and intuitions, usually and almost immediately, almost all of the time. They know hesitating for even a split second, can cause great pain and suffering — or even worse — death. Acting or not acting can be the difference between life and death, for both animals and humans.
Children are terrible at not saying exactly what they’re thinking. The younger they are, the less of a filter they have. We view this as a liability of theirs, rather than the asset it is. Sure, it may make us uncomfortable, or embarrass and humiliate us. However, that is wholly on us and our shit — not theirs.
You won’t find a lot of neurotic or anxiety-riddled three-year-olds.
Sure, this is partly because their biggest problems in life tend to involve being told “no”, or the much-dreaded nap times we inflict upon them for their own well being — as we seek some much needed quiet time for ourselves as parents, guardians, and caretakers.
But perhaps the fact toddlers don’t hold anything back helps also. If they think it, they usually say it. They don’t know any better until they become older and more socially conscious. As adults, a lot of our anxiety comes from the things we’re not saying, or those we wish we would have once found a way to. We’re worried about what might get said — or worse — what we might not find a way to before it’s too late.
Do you know why the naps we coerce our children into successfully taking bring us so much peace and comfort? Because kids are always talking. They’re constantly saying whatever is on their minds and asking us questions we don’t have the answers to. They don’t know what difficult conversations are, because they haven’t yet deemed a single brand of them as difficult.
They think it and then express it — even if it might get them into a bit of trouble or buy them a time out. The older they become, the better they often get at biting their tounges. They learn from experience, maybe life would be easier if they didn’t always say all of the things they thought or felt the urge to express.
Yes, not a hundred percent of the things we think need to be verbally expressed. You don’t need to tell your sister she looks fat in that dress if she didn’t ask your honest opinion on how she looks in it or isn’t capable of handling your opinion on the matter in question.
Honest conversations aren’t about talking down to people or being an asshole. They’re about the complete opposite, they should come from a place of empathy and understanding.
If you know your sister only asked, because she wants you to tell her she looks good in it, then maybe throw her a bone and do so. If you know no dress is going to make her look thinner — why even bother?
Sometimes we should defer to the golden rule of “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” we’re all taught in pre-school and kindergarten.
More often though, we should say the tough things that would vastly and exponentially help us improve ourselves and our lives, as well as those with the potential to do the same for those around us we care about as well.
If your sister has a newly acquired “freshman fifteen” pounds of excess weight inside the dress she asked you how she looks in, perhaps not saying anything is the best option for all parties involved — even if she has clearly and visibly partook in one too many parties her first year of college. She’s probably aware. No need to beat a dead horse.
But if she is morbidly obese, is on the verge of eating herself into a lifetime of diabetic burden or her weight has become life-altering or life-threateningly excessive, and she isn’t doing anything about it except eating more — it’s likely in her best interest for someone to say something to her about it.
Do you feel how uncomfortable that just got? As soon as you read the words morbidly obese, you probably tensed up, even if you’ve never been overweight. You tensed up for my sake — or in the name of the heavyset person or people in your life who would be better off if they lost weight or ate better. Those you’ve wanted and almost have said something to about their weight, who you feel are putting themselves in harm’s way through their dietary choices and simultaneous lack of exercise.
Obesity is an epidemic in America. With it comes increased risks of diabetes, heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and numerous other serious health conditions.
How crazy is it that we’d rather let people we supposedly love and care about run the risk of all of the potentially lethal health problems I just mentioned, than start a conversation that might hurt their feelings but would not only improve but maybe even save their lives?
Sure, it’s an uncomfortable and difficult subject to bring up to our overweight loved ones. it’s even a bit uneasy for me to generally write about, even though I’m not speaking to or about any specific or particular person.
It’s about the fact the uncomfortable conversations we so often fail to initiate or refuse to participate in at our detriment, are the same ones that could alter and exponentially improve both our lives and those around us — if only we’d find and utilize the courage it takes to have them.
An awkward or uncomfortable few minute conversation could vastly improve our entire lives as well as those of whom we love and care about or for.
Not only having the conversation but also pro-actively participating in it — rather than being a bystander or victim of it — has the power to change everything. These difficult talks could lead to actions that have the potential to transform the remaining decades or half-centuries of our lives.
Yet, so many of us, too often remain silent or ignore the urge to initiate them — allegedly for the sake of keeping the peace or sparing the feelings of our loved ones. You can frame or justify it any way you want to but deep down, you know the real reason you’re not doing so, is none other than you.
If it’s a conversation you need to have about someone else for their benefit but haven’t yet, the reason you haven’t done so already — is you.
If it’s a critically constructive conversation someone else has tried to have with you, that you refused to listen to, participate in or take heed to — the anger and hurt you feel or felt because of it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. It’s about you. It is almost always about us.
Keep in mind, this is not an article solely about the difficult things about other people we’ve hesitated to speak up on or have avoided telling them up to this point, supposedly for their benefit.
It’s also about our truths as well as our past and present actions or mistakes we’re not disclosing, to the people we should and to those who deserve to know. It’s not exclusively about them, nor us — but us as a whole. It’s a thought piece on how we could easily improve upon our collective well-being, through a willingness to have difficult conversations and follow them up with some action.
Very few things in life worth doing are easy. However, it is often through its difficulties that our situations, circumstances and entire lives improve.
Conversations often lead to action and it is only through action that true improvement takes place. Staying silent often just results in silent suffering. However, it’s a form of unnecessary suffering that could be resolved with a single conversation that would quickly conclude, if we’d only start it and stopped putting it off.
I can’t make you start those conversations. I can’t make you more willing to participate in them, nor listen to those who have subtly tried to hint at what you both know to be true. All of that is up to you and will rarely be easy.
Simple, perhaps — but still, not easy.
All I can do is try to convince you, it is often the difficult conversations we’re not having that have the potential to change everything for the better.
Whether you listen or finally start talking about the hard things is up to you.