A few days ago, a friend called me and said she really needed to vent about her boyfriend. She told me that she has been frustrated with him because he doesn’t help her with household chores. She complained at length about being pulled in too many directions, not having enough time in the day to get everything done, and feeling exhausted because of her demanding work schedule.
So I asked, “What do you plan on doing about it?” My friend sighed deeply, then laughed and said “Nothing.” When I asked why, she said that having the conversation with her boyfriend would be awkward and uncomfortable. She added that he would probably get upset, and he already had enough on his plate with work and family issues.
I couldn’t help but wonder: how many of us do this every day? How many of us avoid awkward conversations so often that it’s affecting our lives way more negatively that we even know?
Stop and ask yourself if you have been avoiding an awkward conversation that you really need to have. For example:
- Your mom does _____ every time you see her. It drives you nuts and you want her to stop it NOW.
- Your husband regularly jokes with you about ____. You don’t think it’s funny, and it actually hurts your feelings.
- Your boss is a procrastinator. She always waits until the last minute to give you big projects with tight deadlines. You find a way to get things done on time, but you are stressed to the MAX and tired of running on adrenaline.
- Your best friend is always late and leaves you sitting alone waiting for her. You feel like she doesn’t respect your time, and you are starting to dread making plans with her.
We avoid these kinds of conversations because they are unpleasant. Because you aren’t sure what the outcome will be. Because the other person might get upset/break up with you/fire you/accuse you of being selfish/ [insert your worst-case scenario here].
So, how do you walk into these difficult conversations without spontaneously combusting into a cloud of fear and anxiety? I’m so glad you asked. Here we go:
- Get clear on what it is you need to say and avoid blaming, criticizing, and telling the other person he/she is wrong. Instead of saying, “I really think you’re a jerk when you say this to me” you can say, “You probably have no idea, but it actually hurts my feelings when you say that. I really need you to stop.”
- Let go of any attachment to the outcome. Of course you want it to go your way. Of course you want your partner to grovel with apologies or your boss to make big changes because of your requests. But, that doesn’t always happen. The truth is some people get uncomfortable with you being vulnerable and in that moment they…panic. Which brings me to…
- Get clear on what you need to walk away from the conversation having done in order to make yourself feel respected. Most of the time it’s simply having your needs be heard. Whether it’s received well is up to the other person, but all you are responsible for is YOU.
- Have the conversation at the right time. The discussion is going to be awkward enough, so do it when you and the other person can hear it. Not at 11:00 pm when you and your husband are so tired you can’t see straight. Not first thing on a Monday morning when you know your boss is walking into a high-stress meeting followed by a million emails. Not when your mom is rushing to her weekly pottery/painting/Zumba class. Your timing is important.
When you handle yourself and your expectations properly, a lot of good change can come from difficult conversations. It’s totally normal to be scared, but I promise you will survive. So put on your big girl/boy pants, take a deep breath, and do this already!!