Have you ever had that sick, anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach? The one that occurs when you know there’s a conversation you need to have with someone that you don’t want to have it with? Or maybe they don’t want to have it with you. A misunderstanding has occurred—or even worse—they are heading down a road you know you can’t let them travel without at least having an honest discussion before they do.
In reality, it’s the last thing you want to take on. A tooth extraction seems more pleasant. But one thing I do know is if there’s a conversation you’ve been avoiding it’s usually the one you need to have. Nothing will change if you don’t deal with it—change will only come when you do.
To have the highest possible rate of success in these dreaded life moments, there are a few things to understand before, during, and after the fateful day.
1. You probably aren’t the only one who feels the elephant in the room.
Yours may not be the only sweaty palms, queasy stomach, or anxious wiggling foot. There is a really good chance the other party feels the same way. Or, if they don’t, they can tell that you do … which could potentially lead to all kinds of misunderstanding. Either way, evasion is a bad plan.
2. Avoid creating mental conversations before you get to the real ones.
I have a tendency to write a complete dialogue in my mind, walking through an entire conversation that will never match reality. It’s not worth the energy (emotional or mental) to spend time on something that will probably never happen in the way you’ve imagined. Save it for the one that does.
If there’s a conversation you’ve been avoiding it’s usually the one you need to have.
3. Everything you think and feel will not be right.
This is not an opportunity for you to be absolute in your opinion. As you approach the conversation, remember you don’t possess all knowledge of what may be going on. You haven’t heard their view or perception yet. And this may surprise you—some of your attitudes and opinions are simply wrong. This is true of all of us.
4. Open the conversation without accusation or blame.
No one—I repeat no one—responds well when they think they are being attacked. If you want a positive resolution when the day is done, then grace is the trait that should lace every word you speak, surrounding every difficult thing you have to say.
5. Don’t just talk, but truly listen.
When we have spent so much emotional energy building up to the conversation, we are often filled to overflowing with things we want to say. They don’t all need to be said. As the conversation proceeds, choose those ones that will matter.
6. Remember this may be one of several conversations.
We would all love it if one conversation resolved all human conflict … and sometimes it does. More often, though, it takes several more. You’ve invested in the first one, be willing to do the rest of the work.
So don’t waste another day or endure another sleepless night before you ask that person for a time to talk. Wipe off those sweaty palms, pick up the phone, and reach out. Find a neutral time and agree on a neutral place to begin the conversation you’ve been avoiding. It’s worth the time, it’s worth the effort, and our relationships will grow deeper and become stronger when we deal with the tough stuff. This really is a necessary step in truly living a grit and grace life.
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