HOW TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO HAVE

Sometimes a conversation can be really hard to have.

Whether it’s something work related (I’m sorry Barbara, you’re a lovely boss but I would rather scalp myself then set foot in this office ever again), love life related (Martin, you’re a lot of fun, but the idea of introducing you and your neck tattoo to my grandmother is just too much to handle), or even something more serious like telling your family you are struggling to cope, your other half that your mental health is starting to really affect your day to day life or having a proper talk with a friend who you feel is letting you, or themselves down; finding the *right* time and the *right* place for a good conversation can sometimes feel impossible.

Maybe you’re worried you won’t be taken seriously. Maybe you think the person you are talking to won’t listen. Maybe you’re ~just worried~ (holla! Me, all the time.)

It’s hard to plan a good chat. To my mind, spontaneity is they key to most brilliant things, which makes planning totally impossible. You don’t want it to be staged and awkward. You don’t want it to be bloody obvious that you planned the w-h-o-l-e thing, up to and including how may sips of coffee you will each be allocated.

But then of course you really don’t want it to blurt it out in the aisle of Tescos whilst you’re buried under a 48 pack of Andrex because it was on offer or whilst you’re both in the queue for the ladies.

So. What’s a girl to do?

Well, as a woman born to chat, I have, in my little life thus far orchestrated a number of conversations.

As a woman battling anxiety, a few of those have been hard to have. From trying to explain my (often completely irrational) worries to my boyfriend, to telling my best friend that I can’t make it to dinner * again * because I’m frightened to walk into a room of new people, or explaining to my mum that I think my brain is just wired differently, I know how hard that conversation can be and thankfully I think I’m finally getting the hang of how to have it.

NB. Don’t – if you can avoid it – have this conversation, whatever it may be, whilst pissed. You’ll talk too much shit and then you’ll forget what you said and what they said and what you resolved or didn’t resolve.

LOCATION

(Arguably the most important part of this whole thing since it sets the tone and ultimately dictates what the conversation allows.)

I have five tried, tested and approved locations, they are as follows:

A coffee shop:
– No alcohol so the temptation to get boozed and forget everything is removed.
– No shouting as it is inappropriate so too bigger scene cannot be made.
– Snacks and tissues are on hand if required.
– Unless you live in a cafe, the chance to walk there is a great opportunity to prepare yourself (more on that later).

In the car:
– You don’t have to look at one another which is, to my mind, the best way of ensuring a properly honest conversation is had.
– Storming off and slamming doors is really ill-advised.

On a dog walk:
(or if you haven’t got a dog, then just a walk)
– Being outside will help to diffuse stress.
– It gives you more time to take things in and there is less pressure to answer questions straight away.
– Surrounded by beautiful things you’re more inclined to see beauty everywhere else.

Whilst doing exercise:
(this is not for everyone, I really do understand that)
– Since you’re both struggling and pushing yourselves you’re more likely to open up and be more vulnerable.
– Endorphins are pumping which might help lift the mood.
– You can’t really look one another in the eye.
– You’re probably too out of breath to yell or to run away.

At THEIR house:
– They are comfortable and that’s really important.

I think the trick with location is to ensure that at least some thought is given to it.

You want it to be public, but not public enough that you can’t speak openly to one another. Private, but not so private that one of you finds yourself feeling trapped. Whatever you do make sure that you are either on their turf or, ideally, on mutual ground so that no one feels awkward, uncomfortable or blindsided.

TIME

Timing, they say, is everything. With that in mind it would be much quicker and much easier for me to list off a couple of instances when you should absolutely NOT have whatever conversation it is you need to have.

If either of you have anywhere to be. It might seem like a good idea, giving yourself a time limit. It’s not.
– What if you get to the crux of the issue and “soz, gtg, late for work…”?
– What if one of you is weeping and “ding dong, mum’s here to stay for the weekend…”?
– What if one chat leads to another and then “this is the final boarding call for…”?
– Too. Many. What. Ifs. Allow heaps of time.

Just before bed
(The classic Em manoeuvre, Alex, I am so sorry).
– Neither of you will get to sleep properly.
– One of you will probably want to storm off and that’s the worst thing in the world because no one should be made to leave the comfort of their own bed after getting all snuggly.
– Nothing will be resolved when you are tired.

Those are the classic mistakes, but there are other no-go areas:

  • at a dinner party
  • at the pub
  • just after one or both of you gets home from work
  • on a plane
  • on the bus
  • any time via text
  • half way through a film
  • at a funeral… obviously.

WHAT TO DO BEFORE HAND

(as we have established, this sort of thing does require this sort of planning)

Work out exactly what you want to get across.
– Write it down. Not a speech necessarily but just an overview of what you want to achieve by having this conversation.
– Separate the issues either mentally or on paper so you don’t end up getting angry/confused/not getting your point across.

Calm yourself right down
– Repeat after me: it’s just a conversation.
– 
Try your best not to go in there too emotional or else risk people jumping to the conclusion that you’re just ‘hysterical’.
– Try not to go in there too angry or risk people assuming that you’re on the defensive before you’ve even started.
– Maybe meditate beforehand? (Don’t you roll your eyes at me).

Remember why you are doing it
– You love this person
– You love yourself
– It’s important to you
(this is to stop you chickening out).

Ready yourself 
– mentally
– physically
– all the ‘lys’.

TIPS FOR THE CONVERSATION ITSELF

(the juicy bit, the bit you’re here for)

  • Be careful not to sound too critical
  • Respect the person you are talking to
  • Wherever possible don’t dance around the point
  • Be sure to listen as well as to talk
  • Breathe
  • Be honest. Put your heart on your sleeve. Let your emotions show, it is the best chance of getting where you want to be
  • Try not to project too much
  • Relax into it
  • Remember your own value. You don’t need to bend or break or shrink or cower; you know why you are there. Remember your worth

I will normally avoid confrontation at all costs. I used to love an argument, a heated chat, tackling injustice head on, but in recent years my desire to do all of that, all the time, has dwindled.

Alas, just because “I don’t want to have difficult conversations anymore” unfortunately does not mean that the rest of the world will just leave me to bob along. Sometimes these conversations do just need to be had.

I hate that as much as you do. But I hope that if you do have a tricky conversation on the horizon, and was busy pulling your hair out over how-the-hell you were going to do it, that this blog post might have helped – even if just to remind you of the following:

  • almost everything will be forgiven
  • honesty is the best policy
  • you have to do what feels right
  • they’re only words
  • what you have to say is important
  • everything will be okay
  • and the thing I say to myself whenever I am faced with anything I don’t want to do: whatever happens, this day will end and tonight I will be back in my own bed.
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1 Comment

  1. Natasza
    April 8, 2018 / 8:23 pm

    I would love to have a part 2 to that blog on how to deal with the aftermath of a difficult conversation when your interlocutor got pissed, doesn’t talk to you at all and inevitably will never talk to you again. I’m awful because no matter if I was right or wrong, I will always apologise first because I’m feeling awful inside and this lasts for days.

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