Having conversations with the people you love can be challenging. We fear that the words we speak will be received poorly, rejected, or not listened to at all. These conversations can range from various topics and can be very sentimental to us.
Ultimately, we want the people we love to care about what we have to say. You deserve to be able to be open and honest with the people in your life!
I encourage you to have these conversations (even if they scare you). When we face the things that scare us, we have the opportunity to grow and become more courageous. Don’t let your fears hold you back, allow them to strengthen you by facing them!
What Are Hard Conversations?
It can be hard to have certain conversations with the people you love. Have you ever wanted to tell someone something, but you were intimidated by the gravity of the situation. It felt like this conversation could change everything, affect the other person deeply, or alter your relationship entirely.
Here are some examples:
Sickness or Death of a Loved One
It can be tough to talk about the topic of death. Many people fear death or thoughts about the afterlife. Dealing with the death or sickness of a loved one can be devastating for people, especially when you have to break the news to others. You may be sick and have to tell your loved ones the prognosis, or you may have the challenge of sharing that someone you love has passed on.
For parents, it can be difficult to introduce these topics to kids. They fear upsetting their children or introducing them to a subject that might be too complex for them to grasp at first. The truth is, sickness and death are hard topics to embrace no matter what age you are – having these conversations can be tough for all different types of people.
In relationships or friendships, conflicts come up. There may be something your partner did that upset you or a mistake you made that should be addressed. These conversations can be awkward, to say the least.
It’s not unusual for people to dislike conflict and would rather avoid these conversations entirely. Although it can be uncomfortable, these conventions are essential to strengthen your relationship. The best relationships require a willingness to rock the boat. This is true whether you want to be a good partner or be a good friend.
Coming Out for LGBTQ+ People
June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate, remember, and uplift the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ people should be protected and accepted because it can be challenging for LGBTQ+ people to navigate this world. They face the fear of discrimination, rejection, and danger from just being who they are.
Coming out is the process LGBTQ+ people go through when they share their sexuality or gender identity with someone else. These conversations can be challenging because they fear their loved ones will not accept them or their identity. Coming out can be scary and can fundamentally change a relationship. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.
Tips for Having These Challenging Conversations
Check-In With and Take Care of Yourself
It is essential to figure out how we feel about a topic before bringing it up to someone else. Explore your emotions and check-in with yourself. Try asking yourself these questions and journaling your answers:
- How do I feel about this situation?
- What are the emotions that are coming up? Am I angry, hurt, confused, happy, nervous, etc.?
- How can I help myself feel better or cope?
It is important to honor and validate our feelings. Truly feel your emotions and don’t shut them off or push them away. Cry if you are sad. Let out your anger by channeling it into an activity like running. Your feelings matter and deserve to be dealt with on your terms. Take care of yourself and practice self-care and compassion.
Identify Why You Are Having This Conversation
To begin with, ask yourself why you want to have this challenging conversion. Is the conversation necessary? What do you hope will happen after you talk? What are the possible outcomes?
An LGBTQ+ person coming out might want to have this conversation to fully embrace who they are and share this with the people they love. Someone in a relationship may need to have a challenging conversation about boundaries or conflict resolution for a problem they and their partner keep facing.
Identify the reasons why you want to have this conversation and decide if it is worth having. If so, keep reading!
Take Responsibility and Validate Others
Sometimes we have to have conversations with people who hurt us, and other times people will address things we did wrong to them. We all are human; everyone makes mistakes from time to time.
As much as we want others to be understanding of our needs and feelings, we have to do the same to them. If someone shares that you hurt them, don’t be so quick to brush it off or deny it. Think about what they are saying and evaluate your actions.
If you did hurt someone, own up to it. When you hurt someone you love, chances are you feel bad. Giving someone a meaningful apology is essential to owning up to mistakes. A meaningful apology might include:
- The words “I am sorry for….”
- An explanation of what happened
- An understanding of where you went wrong or should have done better
- A promise to improve your actions for the future
Be As Honest As Possible
Sometimes, we think white lying or evading the truth is easier than being honest. There may be times when you may have lied or fibbed and now have to own up to your truth. Being honest with people can be challenging – you don’t want to hurt people or tell them things that would be hard to hear. It is important to be honest even when it feels uncomfortable to do so.
If someone hurts you, be honest with them. As much as you want to spare their feelings, you must also honor your own emotions. You, just as much as anyone else, deserve love and respect – your loved ones should treat you accordingly!
When having difficult conversations that may also be confusing for you, it can be helpful to look up resources. If a parent has to address the death of a loved one with their child, it can be beneficial to use books, kids’ TV shows, or movies that cover these topics in age-appropriate ways.
For example, a Sesame Street episode addresses the death of a beloved character, Mr. Hooper. Watching this episode with your child might help you come up with the words that were hard for you to form or imagine saying before.
Be open to whatever the conversation may bring. This conversation may end up going well – you get your points across, each person shares their emotions, and a resolution comes from it. However, you have to be open to the idea that the conversation may not go as well as you hoped. Someone may not react well to what you are saying. As hard as this can be, remember that you can only control your reactions and not anyone else’s.
It can be upsetting if someone lashes out at you or doesn’t react well when sharing how you feel – this is especially painful in an LGBTQ+ person’s coming out experience. Remember to care for yourself in these trying times. Honor your feelings, do things that will foster your wellness, and lean on your support systems. You deserve to be with people who love and respect you.
There are times when the conversation might not be successful the first time. Check back in with yourself – Do you want to try again? Would you be open if this person reached out to you and wanted to speak further?
Figure out how you feel and if you’ll try another time to have a successful conversation. Sometimes, the person may have really hurt or offended you. It’s okay not to be as willing or open to speaking to them just yet. Honor your limits and boundaries and do what you ultimately think is best for you.
Know What You Deserve
If someone really disrespected you, consider doing what is best for you and walking away. Know what you deserve, and do not settle for less. Someone who loves you should care about your feelings and want to resolve things with you. It may feel like you constantly have complicated conversations with this person, always fighting, and never seeing eye-to-eye. If it feels like a one-sided or losing battle, it may be time to reconsider your relationship with this person.
If you are LGBTQ+, know that you deserve to have accepting and uplifting people in your life. If someone doesn’t treat you with decency or respect, consider reevaluating this person’s presence in your life. There are so many people out there in this world who will love and care for you.
I wish you the best of luck with your challenging conversations. Remember that you deserve to have your voice heard! Your opinion, feelings, ideas, and identity matter! You are worth having a difficult conversation for.
About the Author
Jackie Caputo is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides therapy in Woodland Hills, CA. She also provides online therapy in California to individuals throughout the state.