Are you scared of conversations where there could be conflict? Are you nervous about setting boundaries in certain situations or with certain people? Here are some insights on why being real and honest might be worth it. I don’t think there’s anyone completely at ease with bringing up challenging topics. What in particular are you […]
Are you scared of conversations where there could be conflict? Are you nervous about setting boundaries in certain situations or with certain people? Here are some insights on why being real and honest might be worth it.
I don’t think there’s anyone completely at ease with bringing up challenging topics.
What in particular are you afraid of? What keeps you silent? Here are some very common and understandable fears that drive us humans to avoid conversations:
- Are you afraid of the person’s anger in the moment or perhaps long term resentment?
- Are you anxious you might lose the person’s or group’s affection, support, or the whole relationship?
- Are you afraid that you will be seen as “needy” or “high maintenance” or demanding or bitchy – which you think could make you less desirable?
- Are you afraid of seeming like a jerk? Perhaps your father acted like a jerk – or worse – and you have committed to yourself to be nothing like him?
- Are you scared of negative financial consequences?
HOW WE JUSTIFY AVOIDANCE
There are many ways to rationalize avoiding hard conversations. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- “I’m a laid back person – my need or preference isn’t that important. It’s all good.”
- “Because I’m a spiritual person, I shouldn’t ask anyone to change or be different. I don’t judge anyone. I should accept them just as they are.”
- “I’m too busy and have got too much going on to bring that up.”
- “Now is not a good time because the person I need to talk to has too much going on for me to upset them.”
Sometimes being thoughtful about timing is very useful. If it continues on for weeks and weeks, it might be more about avoidance than consideration.
If you catch yourself thinking any of these things, there’s a chance you might be avoiding having a talk that needs to happen.
THE COSTS OF AVOIDING HAVING REAL CONVERSATIONS
1. When we hide who we really are – what we really want or don’t want, our relationships can’t be as close. We might miss out on true intimacy. We might have friends but still feel lonely because they don’t really know the real us.
2. Our psyches don’t like to be silenced. When we hide the truth or try to sweep an issue under the rug, we can end up feeling low-level upset because we don’t feel free to talk and to request things. This can lead to lingering resentment. You might find yourself getting passive aggressive or mysteriously irritable with others.
3. Not feeling free to share our thoughts and feelings can decrease our ability to relax and have fun in the relationship.
4. Sometimes we aren’t even consciously aware that we are mad or hurt by someone’s behavior. As humans, our psyche’s can try to distract us from these emotions by creating strong cravings for food, alcohol, video games, etc.
Our bodies are also capable of creating distracting symptoms like stomach upset or an unexplainable back pain in order to help us avoid seeing and dealing with conflict. I will be making a video in the near future about this pattern.
Books such as Unlearn You Pain by Schubiner and Betzold and John Sarno’s Healing Back Pain are rich resources. Mind Body Coaches Lorraine Faehndrich (radiantlifedesign.com) and Abigail Steidley (abigailsteidley.com) are highly skilled at helping clients undo the pattern of somaticizing our emotions.
5. Silencing ourselves actually takes energy. It can cause chronic, low-level stress which is bad for our health.
6. With someone we are dating, if we aren’t real about what we want and what does not work for us, we can end up staying with or marrying someone who is not an appropriate partner. By not sharing our preferences, we might be pretending to be whoever we imagine our partner wants rather than letting them get to know who we really are.
7. If we aren’t honest with a friend, partner, or family member we love who is sliding into substance abuse or domestic violence, we can end up enabling their decline.
A BIG QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF
Is this person workable or not really?
When you speak with a workable person about something, they are capable of responding constructively – either immediately or after a sort period of being temporarily defensive. A workable person is able to apologize, show real concern, and make changes in behavior.
Or is this person someone who is self-involved, doesn’t feel bad about mistakes or apologize for them, pulls all the attention back to how they have been wronged, and doesn’t seem to really care about your needs? There’s a chance they aren’t workable.
Sometimes we don’t want to admit to ourselves that a person is not workable. We keep our focus on our hope in their “potential” as a way to avoid the disappointing reality of how they are right now.
Yearning to find her life partner, Sue had a pattern of being attracted to men who did not treat her well. She overlooked red flags, not wanting to see signs that the current guy wasn’t workable. She didn’t want to see that the man wasn’t for her. Tired of being single, she wanted it to work out this time.
Once in the relationship, she would over-function, trying to smooth over conflicts. Nagging her partner in an effort to fix him was a distraction from accepting that she had plenty of evidence that he was not motivated to change, and likely would not.
Hope can at times be hugely harmful – allowing us to stay involved with someone who treats us badly.
When Sue started telling herself the truth of how she really felt about a man, she started moving on quickly from unworkable guys to ones that actually did help her thrive
IF YOU SEE THAT THE PERSON IS NOT WORKABLE
With truly unworkable people, it can be best to take a step back from them rather than trying to have a heart to heart. What does taking a step back mean?
Only you can answer that. Perhaps stepping back means you stop initiating getting together. Maybe stepping back means you stop confiding in the person. Michele realized that her mom was terribly critical around anything about Michele’s weight or fitness. Her step back was to no longer bring up any appearance-related discussion with her mom.
Or perhaps the step back is to stop sleeping with them. Or maybe in your heart, you know that you should stop having contact all together.
If the person is workable, and you find yourself avoiding an important conversation that you know would benefit you or the whole relationship, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get clarity. Awareness is like gold and can contribute hugely to individual and relationship happiness.
1. What are you afraid could happen if you do bring up the issue?
2. Do you have a story you use to justify avoiding having that talk?
3. With this person or group, what is the cost to you of continuing to avoid?
4. If things go well, what positive shifts could happen?
5. What help or support might you need to help you make the leap of bringing up the issue?
In another blog post, I will cover tips on how to best have these conversations that scare us go well. How you can set things up for as much as success as possible.
If you would like to learn more about working with me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call (303) 819-2099. I would love to hear from you. I am currently meeting with clients remotely or in my backyard in Boulder, CO.