Okay, for starters, we all know intuitively what “THE” Conversation means. It’s that big, heavy, sit-down convo that you avoid like the plague. You’ll try every other angle to get the point across and get your needs met before having “the” conversation, and if they all fail you might still not actually do the deed.
If you’re anything like most folks who use food to cope or other harmful coping strategies, before you actually approach someone directly about an issue you’re having with them, you’ll try:
- Hinting about what you want;
- Making jokes;
- Using sarcasm;
- Talking to others in the loop about it, in the hopes that they will have “the” conversation or that at least it will get back to that person how you’re feeling and you won’t have to tell them yourself;
- Avoiding the person;
- Using body language like eye rolls or lack-of -eye contact, and crossed arms to let the person know you’re not a fan of something that they are doing;
- The silent treatment (simply ignoring them);
- Using a particular tone with them designed to get them to ask, “What’s up? Have I done something?” Depending on the issue, the tone may range from disappointed, to frustrated, to downright contemptuous.
The only problem is, all of these techniques will fail if the other person is either unwilling to accept responsibility for their behaviour or if they just don’t know that they are doing something to upset or offend you. Unfortunately, this is usually the case.
That’s because people typically don’t engage in behaviours that they know consciously offend or upset other people. Don’t get me wrong. People definitely do play head games at times but usually that behaviour is pretty easy to spot, and I do believe that those folks that are intentionally messing with our minds are fewer and farther between than you may imagine.
The truth is, the person who is frustrating you or hurting your feelings or downright scaring you with their behaviour or demeanor, is very likely completely unaware that they are having that impact. They are very likely working from a perception of themselves that puts their behaviour in the best light, where, at least to them, it makes perfect sense and is completely acceptable.
So, imagine their shock when you sit down with them and have “THE” convo! If you’ve tried the techniques listed above to try and give them the message prior to “the” conversation, you are likely to be sitting across from someone who is less than comfortable with you because you’ve been behaving a little weird or downright standoffishly, but they don’t know why. You’re also far more likely to elicit a defensive reaction (a closed mind or an angry retort) when the person is, in their mind, hearing about your problem with them for the first time in a fairly intense way.
From your perspective in this situation, you’ve tried to give them the message, they haven’t got it, so you have to have the big sit-down. From your perspective you may be sad or feel hard-done-by should the recipient of “THE” conversation not appreciate your “patience”, “maturity”, and overall intention (to avoid conflict at all costs and to not upset the other person) and instead become angry and defensive.
This dynamic is the reason that most people avoid “THE” conversation like the plague. It’s not that sitting down with someone to resolve issues is actually that big a deal when certain basic steps are followed, it’s just that most people who use food to cope are scared to death of letting anyone know that they have a need and so resist or avoid taking care of issues as they arise in favour of the magical thinking that, if they wait long enough, they may just…..go away. And often they’re scared to admit to having needs because they carry that old, annoying co-dependent training that says:
- You are responsible for everyone else’s feelings and needs;
- You are needy if you have needs;
- You are only allowed to take care of yourself when everyone else is happy;
- If someone is at all unhappy or even has the potential to be at all unhappy it’s because you’ve done something bad or wrong and that makes you a bad person.
Well, actually, none of those stories are true. That training is a pile of phooey folks. Trust me!
Now, just imagine, sitting down to have “THE” conversation with someone when you’re coming from an adult, interdependent mindset that doesn’t believe those ridiculous stories, but instead believes:
- You have a right to be treated with dignity and respect;
- You are not responsible for others feelings and needs, you are only responsible for your own;
- You have a responsibility, not just a right, to meet your own needs in all areas of your life;
- You are “allowed” to ask for what you need and that does not make you at all bad or wrong or “needy.” In fact, a healthy, interdependent relationship demands that you communicate clearly about what you feel and what you need;
- You have the tools you need to respectfully communicate to the other person involved what you need and how they can help meet that need if they are willing;
- You know, in your heart, that if someone is unwilling or resistant to meeting, or even acknowledging your need, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or your request, it only means that it doesn’t meet needs for them to meet your need;
- You trust yourself to get your need met. As such, you have the space within you and within “THE” conversation to ask questions and to really listen to the other person’s perspective. You trust that you will not be overrun by guilt, blame, shame or anger but that you will hold steady, with grace and dignity, and that ultimately, you will find a way to have your need met, even if that means, as a last-ditch effort, leaving the relationship.
If you trusted in yourself to truly feel, think, and behave as listed above, how do you think you’d feel as you approached “THE” big conversation? Would it even feel like a big conversation? Would it have the same freaky connotations of failure, neediness and inviting anger and judgement? Not likely.
Rather, it’s far more likely that you would have spoken to this person in more direct and clear ways about the issue as it arose in relationship between you long before it ever got to the need for “THE” conversation. Chances are your sense of deservedness of healthy relationships and respectful interactions would have led you to simply and briefly speak to that person about their behaviour and its impact on your sense of trust, safety and respect with them the first time you felt a little uncomfortable with something they said or did, rather than waiting until you just couldn’t stand it anymore and were about to burst with frustration or walk away from the relationship.
From that approach, your energy approaching a conversation is much lighter and usually more readily received by the other person. Remember, usually people have no clue that they’re doing something that is upsetting you. And if they do have clue that you’re a bit miffed about something, they usually don’t know specifically what to do differently to make you “un-miffed.”
You are responsible for communicating to others about what you feel and what you need and about how the people in your life can meet your needs if they are willing. When you communicate directly and clearly about what you need you give others a chance to show you whether they are able and/or willing to meet your needs. This gives you direct and immediate feedback as to how much you can safely rely on this person and therefore whether they can be a dear and trusted friend, an acquaintance, or someone you keep at a good solid distance.
There is much more to say on this topic so tune in next week for more about communication and some tips for attending to things before they get to the point where it feels like “THE” conversation is the only solution. Sometimes, no matter how well you handle something you still need to have “THE” conversation. But it’s much easier to approach it from a place of peace and security when you know you’ve done your due diligence and given the other person many reasonable opportunities to meet your needs.
For this week, just notice where and with whom you’ve been avoiding having “THE” conversation and take a moment to ask yourself why. What are you telling yourself will happen? Have you done your best to respectfully and clearly let that person know what you need and how, specifically, they could meet that need?
Challenge yourself to approach your conversations and interactions with others this week from the adult interdependent mindset and just see what a phenomenal difference it makes!
Have a fabulous week!
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