The Importance of Having Hard Conversations
The Importance of Having the Hard Conversations by Beckie Hennessy
Having conversations about the difficult and uncomfortable topics are important for a few reasons.
One reason is it creates success in whatever arena we’re showing up in, whether it’s our homes, families, communities, in our work or in our churches.
Brene Brown, a researcher and author assessed after conducting thousands of interviews with high achievers, that our willingness to be uncomfortable is actually one of the greatest contributors to our ultimate success. So our ability to walk towards uncomfortable conversations actually defines who we are and our capacity for success.
Who doesn’t want to be a successful parent, successful in your community? Successful in your church service?
The other reason it’s important to have these hard conversations is because it directly correlates with people’s ability to connect with you.
Whomever it is. Whether it’s your kiddo, your family member, a colleague, a church member…whomever. It you want folks to be able to connect to you, you’ve got to be willing to have hard conversations.
And finally, if you don’t have the conversation, particularly with your children, you run the risk that someone else will and chances are it won’t be how you would have liked for it to go.
They’ll find it online, they’ll learn about it from friends, they may even hear about it at church but none of those sources are the same as from a parent.
So we’ve got to have these difficult talks to obtain success, to connect and to ensure that our moral standards are in the drivers seats.
Take away #1 —FEAR: Face Everything and Rise
A lot of times we shy away from these conversations out of fear.
Fear that it may lead them to the thing we’re discussing (if I talk with them about sex, they’ll want to have it. If I tell them about birth control, they’ll want to use it. If I talk with them about pornography, they’ll get more curious about that). We fear we don’t know the right thing to say. We fear we may offend or that they’ll judge us. We fear we’ll ruin relationships, friendships. We fear it isn’t our place…
Sister Joy D. Jones is currently the General President of a massive children’s organization in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called the Primary. In a keynote address she gave at an anti-pornography conference I attended in March she talked about fear having 2 acronyms.
She said it can either stand for “Fear Everything and Run” which is that idea of oh, here are all the scary reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t have that hard conversation or we can “Face Everything and Rise.” Is that not mind blowing? You want to talk about a woman of courage. She said some incredibly hard things, point blank, that could have been very scary to say but instead of Fearing Everything and Running, she Faced Everything and she Rose. She not only rose up to the challenge but she pulled everyone in that room up with her. So first take away, let’s not Fear Everything And Run. Let’s Face Everything and Rise.
Takeaway #2 It’s about LOVE
In that same address, which we will totally link you to, she talked about love in such a beautiful way.
Having hard conversations is about love. It’s not about fear. It’s not about lectures. It’s not about aligning people with you so that you march around with your ‘with us or against us’ picket signs. We have hard conversations because we love. We love our children, our spouses, our families. We love our churches, our communities. We love human kind.
Sister Jones reminds us that “love must be both at the forefront and the foundation of all our efforts…love can motivate us-how we prepare, how we respond, how we listen.”
We mistake love for acceptance and agreement.
We don’t have to accept or agree with certain thoughts, actions and words. We don’t have to allow certain things to happen, be done or be said…especially if we disagree or it goes against what we value. At the end of the day, you can disagree and still have love be present. It’s not hate the sin, love the sinner…it’s what two dear friends of mine, Becky an Bennett Borden say “Love the sinner and invite them to dinner.”
When we enter into these conversations coming from a place of love, we’ll be able to lean into the discomfort of them and stay there as long as we need to.
Takeaway #3 Embrace the messy
We’ve decided to face everything and rise, we’ve made the choice to love.
Now, we get to embrace the messy. Even if you’ve planned everything you’ll say, even if you’ve practiced it over and over, even if you know like you know how they’ll respond and you’ve planned for that too…hard conversations are messy. They’re messy!! Why? Because we’re dealing with people, not robots! We’re dealing with others thoughts, life experiences and perceptions. That stuff is messy!
Think of a baby’s first birthday. One of my favorite parts of the first birthday is when my kiddos get their first birthday cake. We know those times are going to be messy, hence the name of smash cake. So we put out something under the high chair or we sit them on a huge plastic tablecloth. We have wipes on hand and another outfit. We know it’ll get messy, and we’re ok with it…in fact, the messier the better!!
When we go into a hard conversation, embracing the possibility of it get messy, when we prepare as best as we can for clean up, when it does get messy and we stay with them in it, talk through it or even circle back to it if needed, it is far better than it would be had we avoided the conversation all together. It’s ok to go into it saying I don’t even know how to have this talk, I don’t even know where to start, I’m sure I’m going to say something that I’ll need to clean up or I may ask questions to help me understand… Don’t avoid the conversation or person or shut down completely, expect it to be a little messy.
Again the 3 takeaways are:
We call these kings of topics and conversations hard and difficult because they are. They are!!
When we choose to face everything and rise, when we choose to enter them with love, no matter what, and when we choose to embrace the messy, miracles will happen. Hearts will be softened, either ours or theirs, minds will be opened, understanding will take place. Acceptance, agreement and minds being changed may not and that’s ok. That’s the beauty of differences in opinions. Your moral line doesn’t need to change, our willingness to talk about hard things…absolutely does.
Uncovering the Under the Rug Conversations, Episode 13, Beckie Hennessy
It Starts with Us, Joy D. Jones, March 10, 2018 UCAP Conference Keynote Address
Becky and Bennett Borden, LeadingLDS Podcast, Kurt Francom
Beckie Hennessy, LCSW
The Path of Imperfection Podcast (on iTunes or brickstherapy.com, podcast tab)