The benefits of having difficult conversations

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Difficult conversations are conversations that we struggle to have. They may range from a simple hello to a stranger at a dinner party or to telling a sibling that a parent has passed away; difficult and heavy they are but necessary.

They make us physically and emotionally uncomfortable because the thought of these subjects or their recipients inspires feelings of fear, shame, guilt, or anxiety. These feelings of dread do not always come from the subject of the conversation alone. They could be from be the certainty or uncertainty of how the other person might receive the message. We fear that it might come with negative feedback, words of rejection, abuse, dismissal or being ignored. We fear what we stand to lose or what compromises we might have to make.

Awkward conversations are painful, but they’re way easier than divorce, resentment, and heartbreak.
— Emily V. Gordon

However when we focus on those negative emotions alone, we forget or fail to realize that there is much good and peace that can come from having these challenging discussions with our loved ones, colleagues, friends and ourselves.

Here are some of the benefits of having these conversations:

  • you give yourself permission to be free by having honest, difficult conversations

It is such a burden to have to carry on silently when you have so much to say about anything or anyone that affects you, to live in the mental or emotional bondage of another person’s expectations of or assumptions about you. It feels even worse when you are scared of talking about these things because of shame, abuse, rejection or loneliness. Your silence and ‘compromise’ puts you in a tight corner that leaves you with limited options for action towards happiness.

Lift the weight off your shoulders. Free your self. Say what you need to say:

‘I do not want this or that’ ‘I cannot be involved in this or that’ ‘It is not for me’ ‘I do no like it’ OR ‘I like this or that’ ‘This is what I want’

Allow yourself the right to be heard and free to express by expressing your truth even in the face of fear.

  • you gain understanding and you are understood

Understanding is an important tool for creating and sustaining any bond. It is essential for all the parties involved in the conversation to have some understanding of how each one of them feels about the subject of discussion. Understanding with consideration provides us with the wisdom to know what direction to proceed without breaking peace or unity. Understanding helps you to forgive and to accept others and yourself which leads you to love.

However, no one cannot understand what has not been expressed or explained. To be understood, you must open up and say to others who you are and what you think lest you be misunderstood. You should not leave it up to people figure out who you are or what they have done wrong or right because they will make mistakes and treat you based on their assumptions. Understanding goes both ways. As you seek to be understood by speaking up, seek to understand by listening patiently. Listen with the intent of seeing where the other party is coming from when they share. Not to argue their points but to have a better understanding of what the world is like in their heads.

  • you gain a sense of relief

A sense of relief that I liken to peace. This peace is not from getting what you want out of the conversation. It might have even blown up in your face or ended up being better than you could have imagined. It is peace from being able to say what you need to say. Peace from self-awareness. Peace from having passed the message across and not being burdened by its energy. Peace from sharing so that you can begin healing. Peace from speaking truth and defining your existence. Peace from standing up for yourself. Peace from saying your own. Peace from being bigger than your fear, shame or guilt. Peace from being free.

  • you learn how to articulate your emotions better

It is true that practice makes perfect. The time you spent running away from tough discussions, you were quietly perfecting your art of avoidance. Unfortunately, you were doing yourself a great disservice because you took away the opportunities for you to learn how to better express yourself and understand your emotions better. Majority of us need help with learning how to say how we truly feel, how to reject offers, how to pass across difficult to swallow messages. Having these tough talks will require you to learn how to relay your thoughts and emotions in a way that provides understanding to others about your point of view, and the more often you do so, the better and easier it will be.

“Learning that you can’t control the other person’s reaction, and that it can be destructive to try, can be incredibly liberating. It not only gives the other person the space to react however they need to, but also takes a huge amount of pressure off you. You will learn things about yourself based on their reaction, but if you are prepared to learn, you’ll feel free from the desperate need for their reaction to go one certain way.” 
― Douglas Stone, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
  • you become unafraid to engage fear

This is based on the same philosophy of practice makes perfect. The more often you engage in these anxiety-provoking discussions, the better you get at handling them. Future difficult conversations that might have inspired the desire to avoid or flee within you will no longer pose a threat. You have been here before so you know that you can handle it. You become more confident in yourself and your abilities and you become more courageous.

  • it communicates value and respect for self and for others

It says to someone that you value their opinion and feelings.

Think of how many times you have fallen out with someone simply because you did not ask them what they thought or how they felt about something or you did not tell them the truth because you were being wary of their reaction or a negative comment.

Saying what needs to be said tells others that you are considerate and you respect their involvement in whatever the situation might be. It says that you love yourself enough to want to gain clarity and to be open. This action reflects maturity in the sense that you are able to control your negative feelings so you can do the right thing.

  • it reveals your blind spots

These conversations make you more self-aware which is essential for personal growth. You have only one line of vision and that is from you to others. This means that there are others who perceive us from different perspectives and can give us more insight into our character. They can show us behavior traits that we unconsciously perform. Like how we are when we are stressed, how we relate with our loved ones, our decision making pattern etc.

Difficult conversations can be frightening. They can make your tummy hurt, your breathing heavy, your ability to focus poor and entire being uncomfortable. Avoiding them will not bring you as much peace, resolution and growth that having them will. It can take a while to learn how to handle difficult conversations and everyone needs help with them sometimes. If you do, contact me here.