Growing up in an Italian-American family, difficult conversations were always the white elephant in the room. Everyone knew they were there, but no one dared bring them up.
But difficult conversations can only be ignored for so long before they come to a head (usher in an impromptu screaming match during family dinners).
And while not every difficult conversation means fist-pounding at the dining room table and someone storming out in tears, no one every looks forward to having them.
Why is that you might ask?
Irina Firstein (LCSW), says, “Most people are reluctant to express their feelings and thoughts because they are concerned about rejection, anger or alienating others.”
That sounds about right to me.
Personally, I’ve had many bad experiences trying to have difficult conversations with people I thought would be more receptive. As Firstein stated, concerns about rejection, anger and alienation were not unfounded in my case.
This experience has caused me to become incredibly wary of initiating difficult conversations with others – which I’m well aware is preventing growth and progress.
Frankie Boyle wrote this profound statement I keep reading over and over again. It says simply…
“We don’t live in a shared reality, we each live in a reality of our own, and causing upset is often the price of trying to reach each other. It’s always easier to dismiss other people than to go through the awkward and time-consuming process of understanding them. We have given ‘taking offense’ a social status it doesn’t deserve: it’s not much more than a way of avoiding difficult conversations.”
I learned a long time ago that avoidance coping, as they call it, actually causes you to have more anxiety than the thing you were trying to avoid in the first place.
And so, difficult conversations will always be, well, difficult.
We can try to avoid them, and will probably succeed for a time, but the underlying problem is always there lurking in the background.
It’s causing you sleepless nights, mood-filled days and a level of stress and anxiety that literally can cripple a person.
What difficult conversations are you avoiding? Maybe it’s time to break your silence.
For it’s important to remember, “you’re not learning anything unless you’re having the difficult conversations.” – Gwyneth Paltrow