A few weeks ago, I sat on the plush, red couch in my living room having a great conversation with someone I love very much. It was the kind of conversation that fills you up with that juicy, positive energy that we all like to cozy up to and wrap ourselves around like fresh-out-of-the-dryer-sheets. A comforter of connection.
The conversation flowed through various valleys and ravines but eventually it capsized after hitting up against one of my emotional triggers. You know the kind, the triggers with the sharp, jagged edges that remind you that you still have some sensitive scar tissue kicking around. Something was said in the conversation that made me react to a pattern that I had built up over the course of my thirty-one years.
As I began to slide into my usual way of dealing with the pain of bumping up against this pattern — avoidance and suppression — I instead welcomed the invitation to go deeper. In the past, I would often avoid confrontation and avoid the uncomfortable conversation. I would have likely sat in an awkward silence or silently fumed and beat myself up about it later. Instead of repeating my old patterns, and desiring greatness in my relationships, I took a deep breath and dove in head first.
Going Where It’s Uncomfortable, Awkward and Incredibly Beautiful
Knowing that the other person was likely feeling like he/she did something “wrong” to cause me to get upset, I started there. I let the other person know that it wasn’t their fault that I was feeling triggered but that the feelings I had in the moment were valid and were worth exploring. I did my best to explain the trigger and to illustrate to them how we went from juicy, positive energy to a thick, twisted mire.
As I began explaining how I felt in the moment, I had what felt like an out of body experience as I watched myself in the conversation and realized what was unfolding. I was holding the space to go deeper and to truly break new ground with this person. Ground that we hadn’t explored together in this way. It was scary, exhilarating but mostly, it was beautiful.
There was a moment of resistance on the other person’s part and the conversation almost stopped but I was so glad that they sat back down and opened themselves up.
We talked about how we got to that point and we challenged some of the things that were coming up for both of us. We asked each other questions and stretched out like cats in the sun. It was uncomfortable at times, and emotional, but we survived it. We ended the conversation hugging it out in the kitchen and concluded with meaningful I-love-yous.
Putting the Practice to Practical Use
As I explore, on a regular basis, what it means to have meaningful conversations that go deeper than the typical surface level banter, I find myself fascinated by the practice. Instead of being terrified of having the difficult conversation, I find myself inviting it in. Inviting in the opportunity to grow with the other person. I want to share with you some of the ways in which I’ve been doing that in case you find yourself wanting to go deeper but unsure about how to do so.
The first thing that I’ve been doing is checking in with myself and my body to figure out what’s really going on. What am I reacting to? What can I own here? Instead of getting closed off or defensive, how can I invite the person into my emotions so that the potential for compassion exists? How can I be compassionate and gentle to myself?
If you found yourself, in the conversation, bristling up against something that was said, there’s a good chance that it was an emotional trigger for you. Understanding more about that trigger and being self-aware are two ways to ensure that you own your issues and are able to say to the other person, “Here’s what’s happening for me.”
Once I figure out what’s happening for me, I speak that truth. I want the other person to know that it’s really, truly not their fault that I reacted in the moment but that them holding a space of understanding would mean that I could talk through it, work it out and move past it. The upside with getting other people to understand your triggers is that their awareness about them increases, which makes dealing with future issues much easier.
The thing that I’ve found most helpful is checking in with the other person.
Oftentimes in situations that are awkward or uncomfortable people can start reeling. They start bringing in all kinds of side conversations and side hurt. Instead, check in with them often throughout the conversation to get them to hone in on the truth of what’s happening in present time. Even if your tendencies are to play a blame game, try not to do that.
Ask the other person how they are feeling and how you might be able to better handle the situation in the future. Getting them to be an active participant and truly listening to their feedback, even if it feels critical in the moment, will stretch your relationship immensely.
What are some of the ways that you hold the space for uncomfortable and awkward conversations? What kind of impact has it had on your life? Leave your comments below.