As a clinician, I have always enjoyed working with both individuals and families. So often, we think of treating one or the other, but are we really? As much as we grow and differentiate as individuals, we are continuously impacted by our upbringing and current familial relationships.
Avoidance of difficult conversations is all too common. Why not just make passive remarks in passing and hope they get the point, or bring it up in our weekly vent sessions to friends? We’ve all been there. We are frustrated, annoyed, or hurt, but talking to that person seems worse than the emotions that are brewing. There comes a crossroad though, where we have to decide. Is it worth the feelings I have been internalizing, or do I need to have this uncomfortable conversation to find peace again?
When we decide this difficult conversation is a prerequisite to healing or growth, we can start to plan and prepare emotionally and logistically.
3 steps to get the most out of these conversations:
- Process your own emotions first. Whether it is with a friend or your therapist, take the time to process your own emotions regarding the issue at hand. Understanding your own emotions will allow you more control over them when having this difficult conversation, as well as give you the confidence you need for an assertive stance.
- Timing is everything. Difficult, emotion provoking conversations are best had when both parties are calm and prepared. If either party is in a heightened emotional state or under stress, the frontal lobe of the brain is not functioning at its best. The frontal lobe oversees executive functioning – such as rational decision making and impulse control. Thus, if we are not in the right mental state, the conversation could be doomed from the start.
- Use your “I” statements to prevent blaming or shaming.
I feel _________________________________________.
(The event that caused the emotion – Be specific!)
Can you please ____________________________________?
(A positive replacement behavior)
When we feel blamed or shamed, we naturally becoming defensive. A key part in communicating is including an emotion. This step will require some vulnerability. (Yuck! I know.) We also want to include our future expectations. For example, if we want our partner to “Quit Interrupting,” we could say, “Let me finish my thoughts, please.” This simple substitute of identifying a solution or need in a positive way feels less threatening. See further explanation of “I” statements: “I” statements: A Simple Solution for Improved Communication
These conversations are not effortless. As a matter of fact, they would definitely be easier to ignore. With pain, comes growth, and with growth comes change. Finding the courage for these conversations is difficult but more than worth it.