Funny thing about last week’s article: I had at least 10 people mention over this past week that they really appreciated that article and felt certain I had written the article on “THE” conversation in response to something that was going on for them personally that they had shared with me. Now, for the record, clients do give me permission to share, anonymously, certain aspects of our work together for educational purposes, but, the truth is, this issue is so incredibly prevalent and key to your healing from emotional eating that it really does pertain to everyone I’ve ever worked with and wasn’t specific to anyone.
Kind of like that article I wrote awhile back on needs which similarly hit home with everyone. Communication issues and our own confused training in relationships really does pertain to us all until we learn to honor ourselves, respect our needs, and ask directly and respectfully for what we need.
This week’s article takes off where last week’s left off. We are going to take a brief look at how to most effectively approach a conversation around a sensitive issue with someone. When I say “sensitive,” I mean an issue that makes you feel a little uneasy, anxious or resistant when you think about bringing it up. It may be that it makes you feel uneasy because of your part in it or because of what it is you imagine the other person will feel or think about you when you bring the issue up.
The first thing to do when you’re thinking about talking to someone about something that has any emotional charge for you at all (or that you think might be sensitive for them) is to sit down, alone, and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your intention in speaking with the person about this issue?
- What are you trying to achieve in speaking with them about this issue? (often the same answer as above but not always)
- What do you want to get out of the conversation? Ie. What would you need to hear/share/experience in that conversation that would make you feel it had been a success?
- How do you want to feel when you leave the conversation?
- What do you need to say and how do you need to say it and what do you need to hear from them in order to feel that way when you leave the conversation?
- What kind of timeline would you want to place on the conclusion of the issue? Ie. How long can you comfortably wait for this person to follow through on what you’re asking for? You must communicate that key piece of information to this person and ask for their agreement on this timeline as well. This is key for both of you to have great clarity on how and when you will assess whether anything has changed; ie. whether your needs have been met and you can therefore let the issue drop completely, forever.
Make notes of these key pieces and take them with you when you speak to this person. Refer to them and challenge yourself to cover all key points before you leave the conversation. If anything seems to be going at all awry or you lose your place just ask yourself questions 4 and 5 again:
How do you want to feel when you leave this conversation and what needs to happen/what do you need to hear or experience with this person in order to feel that way? That is your grounding and centering piece.
Now, before you get to “THE” Conversation with someone, there is a very interesting phenomenon you will notice when you just sit down to consider these questions before you speak with them: Often just sitting down to reflect on those questions helps you to see something that, if you’re at all interested in not taking full responsibility for your actions and for your life, will really irritate you.
Often in just sitting to reflect on what message you’d like to convey, how specifically you would word it, and what specifically you want to get out of that conversation, you will discover that the issue isn’t really theirs, it’s yours. And usually, though certainly not always, it pertains to your own old-life training to not ask directly for what you need; to not let yourself be vulnerable by exposing that you even have a need; or to not be “selfish” or to burden others in any way.
What I’m saying is that usually, regardless of how things appear at first glance, the majority of our stress in relationship with others exists not because of anything that’s actually happening between us and another person, but because of the old stories and patterns of behaving that we carry within ourselves that have prevented us from either taking action ourselves to meet our needs and/or from communicating earlier, when we first began to feel a little hurt/annoyed/frustrated/resentful/sad/lonely/insignificant/disrespected, etc. with that person.
Our story that we can’t possibly say or do anything that might upset, irritate, or hurt anyone or call any attention to their “imperfection” is really only our own inner co-dependent training that says:
If anyone feels anything other than happy, it’s your fault and you are bad and wrong and unlovable for “making” them feel that way.
Yup, that’ll do it! That childhood training; that old bogus story will shut you down and leave you feeling completely powerless in your relationships every time.
Unfortunately, not only is it completely not true in any way now – it never was – yes, I mean it, it never ever, ever, ever was true. You have never been and never will be responsible for another person’s feelings (barring dependent children, of course). Your complete healing and recovery from emotional eating or restriction and from any unfulfilling jobs, relationships, or self-care, demands that you not only cognitively get this message but that you begin to get it on a gut level; that you begin to trust it, to know it and to embody it in your actions.
The world becomes a completely different place when you make this shift. (Recall the article from a few weeks ago on ELOC vs. ILOC).
Once you sit down and reflect on the questions above and see what’s really up for you and find yourself getting clear on what you want from that person usually you’ll find that what you really want from them or need from them is some reassurance and understanding as you make some changes to your own, perhaps freshly realized, contribution to the dynamic you two share.
You might say:
“This is what I’ve noticed in myself…here’s what I’m planning to do about it…and here’s how you can help me if you’re willing…”
Often your own awareness of what your own contribution to the dynamic has been (which will come about simply by sitting down to ask yourself the questions above) makes it so you are truly comfortable with the choice to not address it with them for now (as opposed to just avoiding bringing it up); make some changes to your own contribution to the dynamic, and see after that, whether you still feel the need to bring it up to them more directly.
Next week we’ll talk about what to do when you’ve done the above piece and, after attending to your own piece of the puzzle, feel that you need to address the other person’s role and ask for a change in their behaviour towards you or towards the situation.
For this week think of someone that fits the “I need to have “THE” conversation” bill and take 5 minutes to ask yourself the questions above. Please email me what you come up with! I’d love to see what you notice and discover about yourself and about how to proceed then.
You might find you recognize that you are playing a role in this dynamic but don’t know what to do on your end to change your part of the dance. That’s what I’m here for!
See you next week.
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