What would you rather do this Halloween? Dress up in costume, arrive at your office being one of only three people who had dressed up…the two others happened to be considered the office goofballs, (must see last season’s Modern Family Halloween episode)!
OR – Sit down, face-to-face with someone and have the difficult conversation you KNOW you need to have but it’s been just too painful to actually conduct.
Nine out of ten people would choose donning the Halloween costume vs. holding the tough conversation and you know why? It’s SCARIER! The reason it’s scarier is because we’ve held on to our thoughts and feelings so long that when we finally do have the conversation, we are afraid we will totally blow up or the message will be sooooo sugar-coated that the other person will miss the point entirely. It will be as if we never had the discussion, which makes us even more frustrated and ultimately dissatisfied with the relationship.
There is a quote from the book, The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway that really captures what happens to our relationships when we don’t have those important conversations. In the book, there is a character, Mike Campbell, who at one time had been very wealthy and then ended up going bankrupt. Another character asks him, “How did you go bankrupt?” Mike’s response, “Gradually, then suddenly.”
That’s how our relationships can go bankrupt as well. We continue to avoid a difficult conversation because, well…it’s hard and uncomfortable. The more we avoid it, the harder it is to ever get the topic on the table.
Gradually – day by day – the ties we have with the other person weaken and begin to deteriorate. It can take time for it to happen and then one day – poof – there’s nothing left. Relationships vanish gradually and then suddenly, oftentimes because we were too afraid to broach a sensitive topic or let the other person know how what they said or did impacted you.
There is a great book, Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott who highlights the point that the conversation IS the relationship. “If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller. If we lower the standards about how often we talk, what we talk about and most important, what degree of authenticity we bring to our conversation, it’s a slow and deadly slide.”
So my question to you is this: What conversation are you avoiding right now? Perhaps you need to think about in a different way. It’s an opportunity to build relationship and, in fact, not having it will ultimately be detrimental to the relationship. Does that make it easier? To help get you started, answer these three questions:
1) What is the key message I want/need to deliver?
2) What is the impact to the current situation?
3) What will be the impact in the future if I don’t have this conversation?
Write down your responses to these questions and you’ll have more confidence in managing those difficult – aka, SCARY – conversations.
In my opinion, building relationships is not nearly as frightening as losing relationships. So get out there this Halloween and face those demons!