In case you’re wondering, I’m writing this for you today. Because I know how much you struggle. I know how you try to be brave and strong, and try to be positive, and try so very hard to bring only good things into your life.
In an effort to preserve the peace, you’ve swallowed your words for years. Conflict or even the prospect of conflict – wow, that gives you an ache in the pit of your belly.
How can you be the person everyone expects you to be and say things that are hard to say? Harder to hear?
What if people heard what you really had to say, and then got mad? Caused a scene? Decided they didn’t like you? Fired you? Or left you?
Academics write books on effective communication and they always envision scenarios where both parties are equally committed to a positive solution. Like this actually happens in the real world. Usually, one timid person raises a difficult something and a bully turns into rubber and bounces the pain back. You’ve been there, haven’t you?
Honey, I know you. And I know just how hard this is – but I also know how much you suffer in silence.
Can I tell you something? Every time you refrain from saying what needs to be said, you lose a little bit of your self. A little bit of your strength. A little bit of what makes you, you. And one day you may wake up to find that there’s nothing left.
That’s the hollow and vacant space where your soul once was. That’s when you wonder who you are and if your life really has any meaning.
Don’t wait until you’re there. Start from right here. Pledge to yourself that you won’t walk away from the difficult subjects lodged in your heart. Be patient and gentle with yourself – it’ll be a bit overwhelming to start reversing the pattern, because you’ve been out of practice for years.
Know how wonderful children are? Know how they say the darnedest things? Kids have the honest heart to ask, “Why?” And they have the presence to say “ouch” when something hurts.
And here’s where I’d like you to focus – on being like a wonderful kid.
Simply say “ouch” when something hurts.
The easiest way to start having hard conversations is to focus on your own “ouch”. Too many of us face difficult people and difficult conversations with the intention that we’re going to win by getting someone else to change, or by getting them to validate us by telling us, by golly, that we’re right!
When where you have to start is by claiming your own voice, and knowing that simply expressing yourself is winning.
It doesn’t matter what the other person does. It doesn’t matter how they react. What matters is that you have claimed where you hurt, and what that means for you.
Of course, your pain ain’t nobody’s business but your own. So no blaming, and no name calling, OK? Simply state, “I feel …” and get it out there.
Sure, it’s scary. But start small. Don’t jump out of the box by confronting the biggest, baddest pain you’ve ever faced. Start with the small pain in the moment, be clear about what feels ouchy, use “I” statements and – guess what? – it’ll probably be no big deal to anyone else but you. And each time you recognize and voice your ouch, you’ll build your muscles, and feel stronger, and then you can tackle the larger and larger ouches.
Until the long-held pain is gone and all you have to do is manage the little bumps and scrapes you get in the course of a day.
Won’t that feel good? And instead of relentless, forced happiness, you’ll feel truly happy.
Which, my friend, is everything.