Why You Should Engage in Difficult Conversations


In the classic 80's "dating" movie, When Harry Met Sally, there's a scene where Harry is telling his friend about his wife is leaving him.  In the context of the conversation, Harry describes how the movers show up immediately after his wife announces she wants to leave. Clearly, she was hiding something, so Harry calls her out about the timing of her announcement, "You knew for a week and you didn't tell me??" His wife responds, "I didn't want to ruin your birthday!"

The scene is funny for numerous reasons, but that exchange works because we've all shirked confrontation for ridiculous reasons.  In fact,  if you're like me, you've been on the receiving and giving end of that dialog more than is comfortable to admit.

Why do we avoid hard conversations?

The specific reasons are highly variable, but the underlying thread is often that we're looking for ways to make the difficult easy.  We delay in the name of finding an smooth segue or a perfect approach, but what we're really avoiding is pain and/or guilt.

Like Harry's wife, we don't want to ruin someone's birthday.

Of course, our tactics aren't so obvious or rude. But I don't want to speak for all of us.  Maybe it's a "me" thing...

When Iwant to dodge a sticky situation I carefully avoid the person or make sure I only see them in a group.  Sometimes I recruit someone ELSE to have the conversation for me.  Or, better still, I talk myself out of the the necessity for having the tough talk and decide to brush off whatever it is that's bothering me.

And yet, that approach doesn't bring me peace.

Carl Jung famously wrote, "neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering."

I don't know about you, but this is good thought for me to remember.

When I'm tempted to skip what's hard in favor of what's comfortable, when I'm not scheduling the tough conversations early, I'm ultimately choosing a more harmful path.When I walk away from the messiness of relationships, when I let things slide and bury necessary conversations, I'm actually causing harm.

Not only am I walking away from someone who may benefit from the conversation, I'm developing an avoidance habit which ultimately undermines my growth.

Feedback is a gift not only for the person who receives the input, but for the person who musters the courage to deliver it!

Think about it the next time you consider having a difficult conversation.