a horizontal rule made up of hand illustrated red and blue stars.

“We need to talk.” The conversations that paralyze and free us.

I hate sending that text. I hate exclaiming it in a call. I hate it. Just seeing the phrase sends shivers up my spine and I know I am not alone. But once the phrase is uttered or texted or simply conveyed in *that look* we have reached a point where some internal calculation tells us not talking is leaving us in an even more uncomfortable, unbearable state than that critical conversation would create. So we succumb to the inevitable – that every relationship and even our own personal well-being is completely dependent on communication. Problem solving just doesn’t happen through avoidance as much as we wish it would. But we also succumb to another, more wonderful, inevitable truth at the same time. Our feelings matter. Our opinions matter. Our perspective matters. And it is finally time we convey them.  

Ripping the Band-Aid off to start the healing.

We have learned from these conversations that sometimes for our own healing, ironically enough, we have to figuratively rip the Band-Aid off – without causing even more pain, we simply need to stop beating around the bush and engage in this thing we are trying so hard to avoid. So why are we so intent on avoiding something causing such pain? We generally don’t like change or loss and often, by the time something requires this cringe-inducing phrase, we have realized that this conversation could completely change or even jeopardize an important relationship.

Or, it could create an even deeper connection and more rewarding relationship. Because you understand each other, know each other, trust each other, lean into each other on an entirely new level. And at the end of it all, we lose the emotional burden that has been building in our silence.  

The preparation it deserves.

But these conversations do deserve some time, some delay, to be thought out. I find it interesting that for an interview or a presentation we will put the time and work in to ensure we communicate as effectively as possible. But when it comes to our relationships, the things that tend to matter most in our lives, we sometimes forget to put the same amount of work into the moments we need to communicate the best.

As a trained marketer, I appreciate that communicating best requires us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – to try to understand how they might interpret what we are saying or how we are saying it. Is our tone aggressive and accusatory? If we heard it, would we listen or would we shut down and simply get defensive? Do we have a clear goal in this conversation or are we simply shoving emotional burden from our shoulders to theirs?

We sometimes think our words will make perfect sense because they have been rolling around in our head long enough we can barely see any other perspective. But we have to remember that our friend or spouse or relative or coworker has not spent time in our head, hearing out thoughts. Seems like a simple concept – but it tends to only be simply understood in retrospect.    

So, we need to talk.

We are stuck in what feels like the most divisive, hate-filled, polarized time in recent history. We are all on edge, we are all emotional, we are all in need of some amount of healing – the unburdening like what I described above. But we are more likely to shut down and avoid conversation or simply take to social media and scream into the ether. But we can’t afford to do this – we have reached that calculation where avoidance and holding the burden will only cause more harm. It’s time to talk. It’s time to heal our own emotional burdens and the close relationships in our lives. It’s time to heal the ever-increasing open wounds in our society. But this will take preparation. This will take calming our extreme emotions, not to silence them, but to leave room to understand others’ – so in turn we can better communicate our own. We also need to understand that if we are asking others – friends, relatives or complete strangers – to listen to our story and our perspective we have to give the same respect to them. This is hard and painful and uncomfortable but it’s the only way to release our own burden and if we prepare ourselves for these conversations, the benefits could far outweigh the momentary discomfort. Your emotions matter. Your opinions matter. Your perspective matters. All of ours do. So, we need to talk. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Today. And we need to listen.

National Week of Conversation is April 17-25. How are you planning to participate? Conversations with loved ones? Conversations with strangers? Make sure to follow National Conversation Project to keep up to date on specific conversation events you can participate in.