Social situations of all kinds can be hard to navigate. Whether it’s family, friends, colleagues and respected professionals, lovers, and even just acquaintances to whom we’re trying to get closer … communication is what drives that closeness.
Life is short. While people-pleasing can be effective in the short term, it’s not what builds real connection, trust, authenticity, or lasting love and support. In order to foster those kinds of connections, we have to be able to get real with each other. That means talking about the hard stuff, the ugly stuff, the not-so-easy stuff, and being vulnerable.
Being vulnerable doesn’t always have to mean crying and showing our underbellies, but it’s not all criticisms, either. Think of it as intentional, loving course-corrections that we are courageously bringing to the surface not because we resent the other person, but because we deeply value them, and understanding them as well as fortifying the relationship is of utmost importance to us. Think of it as a growth mindset. We want to set the stage for more growth, together.
We spoke with Erica Spiegelman, author, addiction and wellness specialist, and motivational speaker who works with individuals, couples, and families on personal growth and overall wellness to relay a little more of her insight on just how to have these kinds of courageous conversations, effectively. Because it takes more than pointing out something wrong within the relationship; we have to do it in a way that will be received, listened to, and understood by our person, all under the wing of love, not under attack.
“Healthy communication is key when having courageous conversations with others. It’s essential to prepare for these kinds of talks. We should strive to be kind and assertive and use positive language to create boundaries and have hard conversations!” Spiegelman says.
“Blame is not necessary or helpful in any way. We can heal and move forward with these actionable tools:
- USE ‘I’ statements. And move toward resolution! ‘I feel better when we can calmly talk things through. How does that make you feel?’ Or ‘I feel hurt when we don’t talk. Can we work on this?’
- PREPARE! Write down your thoughts and what points you would like to prepare to say. We can better remember our feelings and what exactly we want to express if we jot something down and are mindful of the topics.
- LISTEN to what the other person says or how they respond. Maybe there is room to take responsibility on your side of how you can do better or help the other person.
- BE ASSERTIVE. Speak your truth, say how you feel, be vulnerable, and let go of the things you can’t control—for instance, how the other person responds. How you respond and react is your responsibility!
- SETTING BOUNDARIES is helpful. You can speak a boundary like this … ‘When you _____ (guilt me, raise your voice, don’t listen, belittle me, etc.), I will ____ (consequence) (walk out of the room, hang up the phone, etc.).’”
While a lot goes into finessing these conversations with the various types of relationships in your life, Spiegelman provides the bones to shape the kindness and openness you need in return when bringing up harder topics. It’s important to remember that while you are feeling upset by something someone else did, bringing it up can feel upsetting to them and put them on edge, so love and compassion will be most effective to get what you want from the chat.