Join me on this podcast to learn what keeps us from telling the hard truth in conversations, and why it is actually not only hurting you, but the relationship itself. How many times have you avoided a conversation because you know it may get tense and uncomfortable? In this podcast I’ll teach you why that tension is actually not a problem, and how allowing yourself to sit in that tension creates the space to problem solve and get what you actually, truly want.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heel From Infidelity podcast, episode number 13, How to Have Difficult Conversations.
Hello and welcome to the Heel from Infidelity podcast where courageous women learn not only to heal from their spouses’ betrayal, but to become the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever. If you know there’s more free than the life you’re currently living but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hey everybody. Thank you for being here for episode number 13. So before I dive in, how’s everybody doing? I hope you’re doing well. Today in Montana, we have a ton of snow, like eight inches of snow. It snowed hard over the weekend. So it looks like winter is upon us. It’s very pretty, but obviously it’s cold. And I did not love scraping my car off today. It’s just a reminder of what the next several months are going to be like, right? But it’s okay. It’s beautiful. I’m grateful to have warm things to keep me warm.
Anyway, before I dive into the topic today, I want to read a review that somebody left me. The topic is Not Just for Women Going Through Infidelity and it’s by CHKHHH. She says, “I love this podcast. I have so many aha moments listening to this podcast. I find myself learning so many amazing tips and ideas of how to look inward in my own marriage. I am even learning tools to be better in my own marriage even though I’m not dealing with infidelity. Thank you, Andrea.” So thank you, if you’re listening, for leaving that review, I really appreciated it and it makes me happy to know that my podcast is reaching people at all walks of life.
So I’m going to go ahead with our topic today. It’s about how to have hard conversations. This is something that we all have to do from time to time, right? There’s conversations that we put off that we let build and build and build until we just blow. And today I want to talk all about that. I’m going to teach you some tips on how to have conversations, the mindset to be in going into these conversations, and how to help yourself to show up in a way that you can be proud of when the conversation is over, no matter how it’s received.
I hear from clients all the time that they don’t know how. “I don’t know how. I don’t know how to say no. I don’t know if I can even trust my own opinion.” Why is this? I’ll tell you a few reasons. One, I coach about infidelity. Most of my clients have experienced deceit. They’ve been lied to, usually by their spouses. Sometimes these lies have gone on for so long that my clients start to doubt their own judgment. They go, “Did I really see that? Did I really hear that? Am I really seeing what I’m seeing?” And they start to doubt their own judgment. So they might know that something’s off but then even doubt that. When they find themselves wanting or needing to have a tough conversation, they might doubt their own opinion.
Also in an attempt to keep their families together, many of my clients have grown accustomed to putting themselves last. Everyone else’s opinion matters more than their own. So they stuff away what they actually feel until they have almost forgotten about it completely, but not quite. There is still a lingering, nagging feeling that reminds them that things are off and that they aren’t quite being true to themselves. So why say hard things? We say hard things to heal relationships. In my people pleasing episode from last week, I talk about how oftentimes when we are not telling the truth or when we are sugarcoating or twisting things a little bit to try to control other people’s opinion of us, it’s a form of manipulation and it’s an attempt to not have them judge us. We don’t want their uncomfortable emotions about us. We don’t want to feel it. We don’t want to feel our own. We don’t want to feel theirs.
So often we don’t tell the truth. We don’t actually say how we feel to try to keep the peace, but unfortunately what happens is we’re not telling the truth, and ultimately it comes to a head. And telling the truth and actually seeing each other for who we are is the only way to move things forward, even if it’s painful. Part of healing yourself is learning to have your own back, telling your truth, giving yourself love and grace to grow and improve. You’re building a foundational trust in yourself, and it begins with telling the truth, first to yourself. We’ll dive into that a little bit more. I want to go ahead and share with you ways that we justify not having the hard discussions. I’m going to share with you a few things from a book called Crucial Conversations. If you have not heard of it, go get it. It’s a good book. In the book, the authors talk about three clever stories that we use and that we hide behind to not actually come out and say what we want to say. I’m going to read you a little bit from that.
So as an explanation to the three clever stories I’m about to share with you in the book it reads, “When we feel a need to justify our ineffective behavior or disconnect ourselves from our bad results, we tend to tell our stories in three very predictable ways. Learn what the three are and how to counteract them, and you can take control of your emotional life. Fail to do so, and you’ll be a victim to the emotions you’re predisposed to have wash over you at crucial times.”
Okay, so what are these three stories? I will tell you. They’re clever stories that our brains make up to keep us from having these conversations. One of them is the victim story. “It’s not my fault. We are the innocent sufferer. They are bad, stupid, wrong, mean, et cetera, and we are smart, good and superior in some way.” The problem with the victim story is that we intentionally are leaving out the part of the story where we have any kind of responsibility for the current problem. We are just the victim and nothing else.
Number two, the villain story. “It’s all your fault.” Symptoms are exaggerating our own innocence, blaming others for our results, giving us permission to treat them however we want because they are bad. For example, “I can’t say this to you. I can’t tell you the truth because of the backlash I might get.” Now, for some of my clients, it really is not particularly safe to say some things to their partners. They might actually get a backlash that is not healthy. I’m not talking about abuse in this situation. I’m talking about relationships with a person that you can have a somewhat rational conversation with, okay?
Number three, helpless story. “I might as well not say anything at all because it will never change. He never listens to me. I might as well sit here and suffer. I can only yell because that’s the only way he’ll actually pay attention and listen.” We turn the other person’s behaviors into fixed, unchangeable traits. “They are just this way, and I can’t help myself here. I am just stuck.” The first two in those three clever stories explain why we are in this situation in our head, and the third explains why we can’t or won’t do anything about it, right? It’s kind of an excuse that we use. “I just can’t.”
So what is the solution here? I’m going to go through four different things and then some extra tips at the end of that, that I hope you fill find helpful. Number one, tell the truth to yourself first, even if it feels uncomfortable. Tell yourself the truth. Asking yourself really good questions is a way to get to the truth. Once you get clear in your own mind about what is true for you and you like your reasons for it, you can then go into the conversation with much more confidence.
So what does it mean to like your reasons? Liking your reasons means that you’ve spent enough time really thinking about it, really checking in with yourself, making sure that you’re not trying to control anybody else in the situation and that what you want to say is true for you and that it feels good, feels good in your body. It feels good in your mind. We can ask ourselves, “Why? Why do I want to do this?” And if it’s in any kind of way to manipulate somebody else, to have them validate us in some way so we can feel better, things like that, it won’t feel very good and you’ll know. So again, tell yourself the truth and then like your reasons for what it is that you want to say.
Part of this is telling the whole truth. For example, when you’re speaking to somebody, instead of saying something like, “I don’t want to go to that event.”, and then preparing for their backlash or their annoyance or whatever comes up, it actually is okay to give the whole story and say, “Hey, can I be honest about something? I don’t really want to go to that event. I’ve been afraid to tell you because I didn’t want you to feel like I don’t care about you because I know that you want to go. But I do care. I do care about you. I just don’t want to go.”Now, this is not the same as over-explaining, not the same as apologizing for your truth. It’s a way of connecting with the other person to let them know, “Hey, I totally am taking you into consideration here, and this is how I feel. This is my answer. I don’t want to go.” Okay?
Number two, this really powerful question. “What does love look like here for everyone involved?” What does love look like? I’m going to tell you a personal example of when I learned a lot about this. So I’ve mentioned before how difficult it was to make the decision to get divorced. It truly was just very grueling because I knew that so much was on the line and I just wanted to get it right. I just felt so much pressure to get it right. And I felt like I couldn’t have a harder thing to do than to end my marriage. I knew that people would judge. I knew that people would think that I was giving up on him. I knew that he might think that I was giving up on him, and that thought hurt terribly. I didn’t want him to feel like I was just giving up on him and throwing him aside because of course I still cared about him.
Even though I had experienced a lot of hurt, I still cared about him and his wellbeing, and I worried that he felt like I was just saying, “I’m done with you, enough of you.” Well, I remember at one point I was praying, which I share a lot on here about my faith, and I was praying, and I had a very clear thought come to my mind that I needed to let him feel the weight of his choices. That I needed to move forward. And that the most loving thing that I could do for him was to let him go and to let him feel all of it, all of his choices over many, many years, let him feel the consequences because I had spent so much time trying to make it better for him, trying to make it okay.
And it felt like love, and it shifted my mind to go, “Okay, it’s the loving thing for him to feel this and to ultimately decide if he wants to go and choose things that would bring him closer to God or further away from God.” But that he needed to feel the consequences to be in a position to really powerfully choose and ask for help. And even though he maybe didn’t understand that when I gave him the news that I was ending our marriage, I knew it. I knew my own heart. I knew my own mind. I knew my own intentions. So I could have that conversation because I liked my reasons for it. It felt true to me and it felt like love.
So what does love have to do with it? When we can answer the question and say, “How is this loving for everyone in this picture to have this discussion?” Then it takes us into this place of maturity in adulthood where we’re willing to do hard things in the name of what truly is the most loving. Loving does not always equate to easy. Loving is often telling the truth, even if it’s hard to hear. Number three, let them have their feelings while owning your own. In a past episode, I think it was number three, I talked about feeling your feelings. Maybe it’s not number three. Anyway, feeling your feelings.
As a refresher, I go through all the different ways we generally work through our feelings. Most of us do not do it very well or very healthily. Most of us don’t do it at all. We avoid it. We push it away. We resist our feelings. We do things to distract ourselves from our feelings, and often part of the fear of stepping into conversations that can be hard is that we know we’re going to have to feel some feelings and that the person on the other side of this conversation is also going to have to feel some feelings. And then we worry about our own feelings and we worry about their feelings.
And here’s the magic. You can let them feel their feelings and it’s okay. It’s okay for the other person to just feel feelings. And they might not be very happy with you. They might be sad, they might be mad, they might be disappointed. Any number of things. And guess what? You also can sit with your own feelings. You don’t have to change them. It used to be that in my early parenting years, I thought it was my job for my kids to just be happy. I just want to protect them from all things hard.
As I’ve become a more mature mother and learned more about feelings and processing emotion, I’ve learned that it’s the best thing I can do actually to teach my children that it’s totally okay for them to have feelings and that sometimes they’re really powerful. There are no feelings that are actually going to hurt you. They’re just vibrations in your body and that it’s okay/.and the more that you can allow the feelings, the sooner you’re going to be able to move through onto the next thing and figure out the thoughts that were creating those feelings in the first place.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to learn to let other people have their feelings. We are not used to this, and it can be really, really hard. It can be really uncomfortable to sit and say your truth and know that somebody else might have a problem with it. They might judge you. And you might feel so uncomfortable with that, but that is growth, my friends. That is growth. When you can sit and allow your own discomfort and not try to change it and not try to change their discomfort, handing it to them, it’s okay. It’s okay for them to be uncomfortable. It’s okay for you to be uncomfortable.
Number four, being willing to hold the tension, and I’ll explain what that means. This is a quote by Stephen Cope who says, “You can hold tension between two opposing forces. If you can do that, there will emerge a third way that will transcend the two and make way for an evolution.” When my husband and I were first married, he was not accustomed to sitting with the tension. He did not like any kind of tension at all, and so sometimes when things started to get a little hot, he just wanted to escape the conversation. And I had a hard time bringing things to the table to talk about because I didn’t know if he would be able to sit in it with me, sit in that tension. I didn’t know if he would want to escape. I mean, I wanted to escape too. I totally wanted to escape. But there were things that we had to talk about.
We had 11 kids, 10 of them were living at home, most of them were teenagers. We had a lot to deal with out the gate, and we needed to be able to sit there with that tension and me allow him his feelings, him allow me mine, and then we would work things out in a third way. That it didn’t have to be either/or, all the way to one extreme all the way to the other, good or bad. That if we could sit there and hold that tension and allow that tension, even though you could feel it in the room, there’s love in that. There’s love in being willing to just sit there with each other, loving each other, feeling the tension and being willing to stay there and tolerate the discomfort.
Tolerating discomfort is a sign of maturity, of emotional maturity. It means you’re leveling up. It means that you’re growing. When you can do that with another person, when you can love them and sit with the tension, ooh, there’s growth there. There’s growth. It’s okay for there to be tension. I’m not talking yelling and screaming at each other. I’m talking having opposing views and staying in it long enough to find a solution that you can both move forward with. It does not have to be all or nothing. Our brains like to pretend like it’s all or nothing because it feels better to our brain. We don’t like the idea of being wrong. We want to be right. And so if we can’t immediately go to a place where we are right, it feels uncomfortable. But it’s okay.
What if we aren’t right? What if the greatest gift we can give to ourselves is that sometimes we can be wrong and it’s okay. It’s awesome to know that we can be wrong because it means that we have a lot more flexibility in our thinking, that we can be more flexible, see things in different ways than we could before and grow. Now, here’s some points to remember. You can always change your mind. You can have a discussion and come into the discussion. Really having done your work, really sure of what you want to talk about and guess what? You’re allowed to change your mind.
You’re allowed to go, “I hadn’t thought of that. I hadn’t seen it that way. I have more information now. I’m going to change my mind about this.” It’s okay. You don’t have to have the pressure on to get it right, okay? You just have to try. You have to try. You have to try to have these discussions that open up the dialogue, and that is what creates intimacy and healing and growth, especially after there’s been hurtful things in your marriage, things need to be discussed. You need to be able to talk about how you feel. You need to be able to talk about what you want, and share those things openly. And it’s okay for you to think that you want something at one point and change your mind.
Another thing to consider is listening to learn, not to respond. I learned that one from my husband. He says it to our teenagers a lot. When you’re in a discussion with somebody and they’re just waiting to pounce, they’re only listening because they’re working up their response. I know I do this sometimes with my teenagers. I’m working on it. I’m waiting to have the right response. And that is not actually listening. Actual listening is listening to learn. You’re open. It feels different. It’s curious. It’s not with this emotion of, “I’ll show them.” Right? It’s curious. Like I said before, in this space, you are willing to be wrong. You’re open to being wrong. You’re going, “You know, it’s okay if I’m wrong.”
Now, let’s talk about arguments. Arguments come from needing to be right. “I will be right no matter what. I am going to win this one no matter what. I need to be somewhat superior here.” We’ve all done that. We’ve all been there. Doesn’t feel great, right? Maybe temporarily like, “Yeah, I showed them.” But in the long run it does not feel very good. What if it’s okay to be both right and wrong? Again, like I said before, this is growth. Being open, just being willing to stand in the conversation and tell the truth and own your truth. Like any skill, this is a skill that can be quite uncomfortable at times, but the more you teach your brain that it’s okay to feel the discomfort and that you can handle yourself, the more muscle you’ll build to be able to tell the truth, and it’s so awesome. It’s so awesome to build this muscle.
I used to really, really struggle with this. I had such a hard time saying no. Goes back to that people pleasing. I just wanted to make everyone happy. I wanted everyone to feel good. And the problem is that I often didn’t feel good because I was throwing myself under the bus. I was minimizing my own voice, my own opinion. And the more I’ve learned to be able to speak up and to stand in my own opinion, my own voice, to tell the truth, my relationships have improved so much.
My relationship with my husband has improved so much as I have grown this muscle. Because guess what? Trust is built there. If he knows that I’m telling the truth, that goes such a long way. Instead of just pretending to go along with things and wondering what’s actually underneath all of that. The biggest thing, like I said before, is that you’re building your own foundation of being able to trust yourself and your own voice. It truly is the most loving thing you can do for yourself and to the people around you, telling the truth. Is it scary? It is. Because you’re risking being seen.
It feels very vulnerable. Because guess what? They have opinions, right? They have feelings, and they might say something in disagreement to what you’re doing in this very vulnerable moment in sharing. They might reject it. Do it anyway. Practice the skill. Say the hard thing. Stand in the discomfort. Allow the tension. Allow the feelings. Allow everyone’s feelings. What is loving for everyone in the room? Agreeing with other people when you actually don’t agree is not loving. It’s not loving. Allow yourself to be seen. Allow yourself to be heard. That is so powerful, my friends. Go try it. Be brave. I love you, and I will see you next week. All right, bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly email. You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again, it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.