Have That [fearful, painful, embarrassing] Conversation
It’s how humans move forward
We find all sorts of ways to not say something important.
I do this all the time: there are things I need to say to several people in my life—but I hold back, fearful of how my words might be received, questioning where the conversation will lead. Am I able to follow where this potential conversation might go? Do I even have the emotional capacity to stick with that conversation? Will I fall into weeping or fly into a rage?
I’m not talking about drive-by conversations that release a damning monologue and then run away. I’m talking about those sustained conversations with people we are close to, conversations begun with a desire to say and hear. True dialogue about something important—where our thoughts are modified by someone else’s—and something new arises.
Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Metropolitan Books, 2014) has reminded me of the need to get very specific when talking about end of life stuff—though the entire topic is crazy difficult. One simply does not know how much time anyone has left.
But it is not just death and life stuff that wants a conversation. There is life-direction stuff, talk about fears and hopes and dreams. Talk about how we understand something: what we think of faith now compared to what we thought 30 years ago.
Does that sound like a heavy conversation? It sure could be. But, in fact, we release bits and pieces of this stuff all the time. In conversation with those close to us we always find ourselves talking about these things. But sometimes those conversations need to be ramped up.
A couple years ago I wrote that it is better to have the conversation than not. More and more I think that is true. When we bring up a topic with a friend or family member or colleague, great things can happen. We can find new resolve, or new intimacy. Sometimes the talk conjures raw emotion. But on the other side is a movement forward.
What do you need to say today—and to whom?
Image credit: Kirk Livingston