How to Have Difficult Conversations

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
-Albert Einstein

“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.”  -Lao Tzu

Familiar Scenario #1: You pore your heart out on the phone to a friend about someone who is causing you pain.  You really want to heal the difficult situation, but you have no idea how to communicate these difficult feelings to the person that is actually involved.   So you ignore the situation, and pretend that nothing is wrong (even though part of you knows you are not being real or authentic about how you feel).  [Note:  Or, just start at the word "Ignore."]

Familiar Scenario #2: Ditto heart-to-heart with close friend.  But this time you decide that you will not be stopped!  You march over to the other person, tell them exactly. how. you feel.   And what they did to make you feel this way.  This confrontation freaks them out enough that they now avoid you.

How do you tell someone when they have caused you anger or pain . . . and be heard?

This is a tough question that can take strength to even ask.  Ultimately, it comes down to a simple question.  Either you are coming from a place of truth and love–for yourself and the other person, or you are not.  If you are not, Familiar Scenarios One and Two are the common results.  You do not honor yourself.  Or you do not honor the other person.

So how do you honor both?

To have an authentic conversation with someone about a difficult topic,  stand strong in your light and lovingly speak your truth. 

But wait you say!  How can I possibly do that when the other person is NOT operating from a place of love?  The other person is completely contracted and acting in a crappy, selfish, judgmental way.  Okay.  Fine.  Now let it go.  Stop worrying about what they did to you.  Stop worrying about whether or not they can hear you.

The first step is to realize this is really not about them.  This is about you.  This is about you getting strong enough to hold a loving, open space so you can speak from your heart to people who you think can’t hear you.  

So how do you begin….

First, listen to your mind and the stories you are telling yourself about why they did what they did.  Recognize that they are just that.  Stories.  Those stories tell a lot more about your own unexamined crap and fears and hurts than they actually tell you about the other person.  They are often called projections.  Whatever name you use, see that they are not truth.  Ultimately, the other person’s motivations are a black box.  You have no idea why the other person is acting the way they are.

One way to shake yourself loose of your projections is to try and come up with different stories about why the other person is acting a certain way.  Try and see if you can find a nice story about why that person was mean to you (they had a difficult day themselves).  Then find a story that makes you angry (they are jerks used to getting their way).   Play around with it.  After a while, you can see that while your own fears may draw you to one story, you actually do not know which one is true.

Second, as you recognize your stories are actually about YOU not THEM, you free up energy that you were using to try and figure out the other person.  Stop running those mental loops trying to figure them out.  You can’t. 

Now reclaim that energy and refocus in your own body.  (Literally, this is taking energy you were putting out there and bringing it back here, and now.)  Welcome back.  How do YOU FEEL in your BODY?

Try getting down to the level of body sensations.  Tingly?  Hard to breath?  Weak?  Strong urge to hide?  Chances are you have been running around telling yourself stories precisely as a way to avoid feeling these feelings.. to avoid feeling hurt and weak.

But this is exactly what you need to do.  You need to own your feelings.  You need to be a soft, real, human capable of being hurt.  Do not judge whatever comes up.  Instead, love these emotions.  Be there for them. Give them your attention and compassion.  Let them be.

As you do this, you can feel yourself relax.  Breath.  Expand.  Let those walls come down.

As you relax back into your body and accept whatever is coming up, you naturally reconnect with your light (you might literally feel lighter).  If you already have a sense of being grounded and spiritually connected, then you will know what it feels like to be present and radiating light.

If this sounds totally abstract and confusing, then just ask yourself: “Even if I feel sad/angry/hurt/frustrated right now, do I feel generally at peace with myself?  Can I offer love to someone else?  Can I even, maybe, laugh?”  These questions are a good way to gauge if you are connected to your own power.

Third, as you reconnect with your own physical body and spiritual light, you can turn your attention back to the other person.  Now you have enough strength to open your heart to them. 

Wow!  All of a sudden they are not so scary/mean/bad anymore, are they?  Maybe they are just another human soul, trying to do the best that they can.  Just like you.

Focus on loving them for who they are, no matter what issues may separate the two of you.  Phew, that feels good.  No need to go on the attack.  Maybe, you can even start to see some ways in which the other person might have been acting out of fear or hurt that you caused them (oooo! own that!), and have compassion for that.

Sit with this love for a while.  You may have to go through this process a number of times, as new stories pop up that you need to work through and release.

You are now in a tender and open space.  You feel your feelings, you are connected to your body and light, and you have compassion for the other person.  Now you are ready to talk. 

This is the tough part.  Because now you need to remain firm in your truth and light and love while you are talking face to face with this person who triggers these difficult feelings in you.  I find that visualizations can really help you get through this.  Imagine that you are physically enclosed in golden light.  Imagine that your heart is actually opening to the other person and sending them love.  Imagine the other person’s face as soft and open and loving.  Whatever it takes to keep your feet firmly planted in YOUR light and your heart OPEN.

In terms of timing–no need to force it.  Obviously, you need to set up some time in a quiet environment to speak with them alone, but allow the moment to speak to arise naturally, when you feel comfortable and open to share.

As you speak, all the work that you did beforehand should affect the manner in which you speak and the energy you emit.  Speak slowly.  Speak simply.  Speak honestly.  Speak from your heart.  And most importantly, remember to listen to what the other person shares with you.   Be open to RECEIVE their energy and words . . . do not get caught up in getting your message across.  Because what you are really looking for, more than anything else, is an exchange.  To be seen and heard by each other.

Also, it is okay if you feel fear or anger or other tough emotions.  Let yourself feel them, but do not fall into them.  Let them pass through you.  Do not let them knock you off center.  Stay connected to your light.

In terms of content–in plain but vivid language, communicate how you feel.  Remember not to mistake your stories for the truth.   You can share your stories, but communicate them as your fears (“I was afraid that maybe you were avoiding me because of X.”)  If you make it about what you are feeling, not what the other person did, even sharing difficult emotions (hurt, anger, fear) can be non-threatening.  Be surprisingly vulnerable.  Offer insights into ways that you might have harmed the other.

Finally, remember you do not need to have answers.  Maybe you do not know exactly how you are feeling, or are feeling two contradicting things.  Maybe you do not know what the next step should be.  Share that.  Wherever you are at, let that be enough.  You are just a real person, trying to connect.

Ultimately, what you are looking to do is to be so open and free and authentic that the other person is naturally drawn to  responding in the same manner. 

If you are really operating from your heart, most people (unless they are really closed) will naturally raise their own level of energy to meet yours.  Because they feel safe and recognize that you are coming from an honest place, and do not want anything except to have a true exchange.   But if they don’t meet you, you have to accept that too.  You will be able to see clearly that it is about them, not about you.  You have honored yourself, and that is enough.

It feels good to write this.  Slowly, I am learning to practice a new way of communicating.  It is a gorgeous feeling to know that I can remain open and loving even in the face of some things that really scare me or hurt me.   It feels like a victory to take a stand for a better way of being, rather than give in to fear and pettiness.   And it brings me peace  to realize that I can bring that open and loving energy to a difficult exchange with someone else.

Practicing love and honesty is not idealistic.  It just takes a commitment to being open, rather than closed.  And there is a domino effect.  Every person who commits to authenticity can help raise another person up, and let them see there is another way to relate. 

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8 thoughts on “How to Have Difficult Conversations

  1. Reblogged this on Namaste Consulting Inc. and commented:
    awesome!

  2. Savira says:

    Awesome post!

  3. Jane says:

    this is an absolutely amazing post! It is something which will benefit anyone who takes the time to work on it, as well as all those that they come into contact with. You have a done a great service by posting this. I will be rereading this and working on it and I am deeply grateful for you for taking the time to write it so clearly and honestly. Much love light JOY and gratitude!
    I will also be reblogging this to my Mindfulness Journal.

    • threedeelife says:

      Jane–Your constant support of my blog means so much to me–truly! Thank you for being part of this journey with me. I was literally thinking today on the way to work about how when I feel happy, I feel like I have something special and sweet to share with the world, and when I feel like I have something special and beautiful to share with the world, I feel happy. That sense of worth is amazing! So to turn on my computer and get your affirmation was PERFECT! Thank you! xoxo Nicole

      • Jane says:

        :-D you’ve just made MY day. Always a pleasure to make someone happy, and so easily as well! Many more happy moments and days to you
        with love light and JOY

  4. Jane says:

    Reblogged this on Jane's Mindfulness Journal and commented:
    this is an absolutely amazing post! It is something which will benefit anyone who takes the time to work on it, as well as all those that they come into contact with. You have a done a great service by posting this. I am deeply grateful for you for taking the time to write it so clearly and honestly. Much love light JOY and gratitude!

  5. Karyn says:

    Beautiful Nicole! Just beautiful!

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