In the last few weeks I have had some really amazing conversations with my boyfriend. They were not of the "easy" variety, however - which caused me to take a moment and reflect on how far I've come in the last ten years in the communication department.
To give you some sense of the 35 year old me:
Because I was really attached to not ever saying the "wrong thing" in my marriage - many things went unsaid for weeks/months/etc. At the same time, I was perfecting what I was going to say when I actually decided to say it - in my head. I cannot tell you how much time I spent having these internal conversations so that when the time came it would be JUST RIGHT. What would usually happen though is that I would have a huge emotional meltdown/blowup, let everything out in a giant wave of tears, and then just go back to keeping it all inside and having more conversations with myself for the next time.
Combine that with a grumpy ex-husband who had a inexplicable distaste for crying . . . it was a hot mess.
Around the same time, I was working for a narcissist. Part of what that looked like was that he wouldn't talk to me for weeks on end, and then when he did, he would be wildly mean. By the end of my employment (I worked there for nine years!), I'd go to say something in response to him and my throat would literally close-up. And the only sound that would come out was something that sounded like a dying chicken. !!! It was horrible, and there were years of "in my head" conversations around that situation too. <--- But the difference was that there was never a way to let off steam or get some kind of reprieve. It was completely crazy making.
So - how do I go from all that chatter in my head to having normal conversations about hard things? It's been a journey for sure.
For starters, I found gratitude for both of those situations because they have given me an opportunity to learn, and to show up as a better version of myself in all kinds of relationships as I get older. Also, I decided to get over the "perfect" thing, (because perfect is the enemy of good!), and just be honest with the people I love by letting them know that what comes out of my mouth might not be exactly right, but it's preferable to not saying anything at all. Better out than in!
I think historically some part of me thought that if the wrong words came out there was no way to make things right - it was too late once they'd already been said. What I know now is that if I take some care in what I say (like think about it for a few minutes, not weeks on end!) and have the right intention, it's almost always met with willingness to have a dialogue. And once that conversation is started - with respectful listening and tone - it usually leads to some sort of resolution.
I'm working on being a better listener by the way - just so you don't think I've got this whole communication thing mastered. Nah - I'm a lifelong learner in pretty much all areas of my life. Progress not perfection folks, that's what I'm talking about.
Do you have any favorite communication tools? What are your secrets to having difficult conversations? This is a topic near & dear to my heart - I'd love to hear what you've got so send me a note or leave a comment below!
Love & Light,
p.s. To avoid the dying chicken thing? It's a great idea to breathe. :)
p.p.s. These days I actually have a pretty good relationship with my ex. The former crazy boss? Not so much.
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