Why People Hide in Difficult Conversations and How to Bridge the Gap

woman wearing a blue jacket with red cuffs leaning over a pond with reflection of herself and sunset

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Unlock the art of effective conflict resolution when navigating difficult conversations.

Explore strategies to bridge gaps, foster empathy, and pre-plan using reflective journaling.

Transform discomfort into growth and connection today.

Drawing from 14 years of experience as a chartered mediator specializing in divorce and family mediation, this article offers insights, strategies, and journal prompts to navigate conflicts successfully.

Depths of Difficult Conversations

Witnessing a serene pond reflecting the sunlight, its surface seemingly undisturbed.

But beneath the tranquil exterior lies a world teeming with life, intricate ecosystems, and the landscape’s currents.

In many ways, difficult conversations are like the depths of that pond. Often concealed yet brimming with unspoken thoughts, feelings, and potential for growth.

We’ve all been there. Faced with a conversation feeling as treacherous as a tightrope walk. A discussion so uncomfortable we’d rather tuck it away in the furthest corner of our minds.

It’s human nature to seek harmony and avoid conflict.

But what if I told you those very conversations we evade hold the key to deeper connections, personal empowerment, and mutual understanding?

Background

In my journey as a mediator, I have witnessed individuals finding their voice, reclaiming their power, and rebuilding fractured relationships.

Parents navigating the challenging terrain of divorce with compassion and understanding, prioritizing the well-being of their children above all else, inspired me in my own relationships.

Colleagues in the workplace resolving conflicts amicably and fostering a positive and collaborative work environment reshaped my ideas about workplace conflict.

These experiences have reinforced my beliefs conflict resolution is not just about resolving disputes. It’s about facilitating personal growth, restoring harmony, and nurturing authentic connections.

Facing Forward in Difficult Conversations

Learning how to approach difficult conversations is a journey of transformation. A tale of bridging the gap between discomfort and growth.

Strategies to navigate the uncharted waters of challenging discussions teach us to dive into these conversations rather than shy away.

Testing the waters with proven strategies uncovers pearls of wisdom, understanding, and connection. Ultimately building our confidence to face difficult conversations and move forward in our relationships.  

So, take a deep breath and get ready to embark on a voyage reshaping how you approach those seemingly insurmountable conversations.

It’s time to illuminate what’s beneath the surface and embrace the power of bridging the gap.

The Invisible Obstacles of Difficult Conversations

Why is it when faced with conversations of substance, we often find ourselves retreating into the shadows?

The answers lie within a complex web of emotions and instincts shaping our behaviors.

Let’s pull back the curtain on some common reasons why we tend to hide or avoid these challenging dialogues:

Fear of Confrontation

The mere thought of confrontation can send shivers down our spines.

Consider an employee who has concerns about the direction of their team. Worried about rocking the boat, they keep their thoughts to themselves, even as the team’s performance suffers.

We fear the potential escalation of emotions, the discomfort of disagreement, and the unknown outcomes. It’s as if we believe we’re preserving a fragile peace by avoiding the conflict.

The one common cause of fear of confrontation is a lack of planning.

Developing skills for confronting conflict and difficult conversations is no different than developing skills for solving math problems.

Desire to Maintain Harmony

We’re social creatures wired to seek acceptance and harmony within our circles.

Imagine a close friendship strained by differing political views. Instead of confronting these differences, both friends avoid discussing politics altogether, fearing a disagreement might fracture their bond.

Addressing contentious issues disrupts this equilibrium, leading us to prioritize a temporary sense of unity over resolving underlying concerns.

The problem with maintaining harmony is acceptance of the situation.

Leaving sleeping dogs lie is not a solution to a difficult conversation because once the dog wakes up, it’s hungry!

Fear of Negative Outcomes

Expecting negative consequences like hurt feelings, damaged relationships, or even personal vulnerability discourages us from engaging in difficult conversations.

Think of a couple who tip-toe around financial discussions, each harboring individual worries about their financial future. The fear of triggering an argument prevents them from openly addressing their concerns.

We convince ourselves silence is the safer option. In some cases, this is true, and you should always choose safety over negative outcomes.

In most cases, due diligence to prepare for a difficult conversation helps you uncover tested fears from untested fears.

This information is helpful to adjust and align your approach.

Uncertainty in Communication

Sometimes, the very complexity of what we want to communicate leaves us feeling ill-equipped.

The fear of being misunderstood or misinterpreting the other person’s intentions keeps us from initiating the dialogue.

Previous Negative Experiences

Past encounters that went awry cast long shadows over our willingness to engage in similar discussions.

We carry the weight of past conflicts into present conversations, hampering our ability to approach them with an open mind.

Read this article to learn how to bridge vulnerability with connection, embracing authenticity through open dialogue.

Strategies to Bridge the Gap from Avoidance to Connection

The fear of discomfort in difficult conversations leads to avoidance.

The reality is these conversations, though difficult, are opportunities for growth, empathy, and resolution.

As we venture into the heart of bridging the communication gap, let’s delve into three vital strategies that can transform avoidance into open dialogue and mutual understanding.

Remember, the challenges are merely stepping stones toward a stronger foundation of communication and understanding.

The Art of Pre-Planning for Difficult Discussions

Conversations fraught with tension often require a delicate touch.

Just as a sculptor envisions their masterpiece before chiseling away, pre-planning these conversations is the cornerstone of success.

This section delves into the transformative power of reflective journaling. A strategy empowering us to enter challenging conversations with clarity, empathy, and purpose.

Reflective Journaling is the Prelude to Resolution

Before engaging in a difficult conversation, it’s paramount to embark on a journey of self-awareness.

Reflective journaling offers a safe and personal space to explore our own emotions, triggers, and motivations.

This process involves putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and allowing our thoughts to flow freely.

By documenting our feelings and perspectives, we begin to untangle the intricate web of our own reactions.

Here are some tips for setting up your reflective journal to prepare for difficult conversations:

Gain Clarity

Reflective journaling invites us to examine our intentions and desired outcomes.

  • What do we hope to achieve from this conversation?
  • Are our motives driven by a desire for understanding or resolution?

By gaining clarity, we navigate the difficult conversation with purpose.

Regulating Emotions

Confrontational discussions evoke powerful emotions.

Reflective journaling acts as an emotional pressure valve, allowing us to release pent-up feelings in a controlled environment.

This process aids emotional regulation, preventing outbursts during the actual conversation.

Cultivating Empathy

As we journal, we create an opportunity to step into the other person’s shoes.

  • What might they be feeling?
  • What factors might be influencing their perspective?

This exercise fosters empathy, a crucial component of open dialogue.

Identifying Triggers

Reflective journaling helps us identify our emotional triggers.

Recognizing these triggers, we’re better equipped to manage them during the conversation, preventing knee-jerk reactions.

Crafting a Journaling Practice

Embarking on a reflective journaling practice need not be a daunting task.

Consider these steps as you initiate this transformative journey:

Choose Your Medium

Select a medium resonating with you

  • physical journal
  • digital document
  • app designed for journaling
  • art journal

Set Aside Time

Dedicate a consistent time each day to journal. This routine creates a sense of commitment to your practice.

Create a Safe Space

Your journal is a judgment-free zone. Write without filtering your thoughts, allowing your authentic self to emerge.

Reflect and Analyze

Regularly review your entries. Identify patterns, recurring emotions, and evolving perspectives.

Before Difficult Conversations

Before engaging in a difficult conversation, revisit your journal.

Reconnect with your intentions, assess your emotional state, and reaffirm your commitment to constructive dialogue.

The Journey Begins Within

In the pursuit of effective conflict management, the journey of resolution begins within ourselves.

Reflective journaling, like a compass guiding us through uncharted waters, empowers us to navigate the stormy seas of difficult conversations with a clear sense of direction.

By pre-planning and understanding our own motivations, we transform these conversations from potential battlegrounds to arenas of growth and connection.

As you embark on this journey of self-discovery and understanding, remember that every journal entry is a step closer to fostering positive change.

Positive changes in yourself and your interactions with others.

Strategies to Confront Difficult Conversations

Once you’ve done due diligence by diving into your reflective journal, it’s time to test the waters.

Approaching a difficult conversation takes courage.

These two tips are helpful to prepare you to confront your must-have discussions:

Choosing the Right Time and Place

Just as a delicate flower requires the right environment to bloom, a difficult conversation thrives when nurtured in an appropriate setting.

Selecting the right time and place significantly impacts the tone and outcome of the dialogue.

Imagine trying to discuss a sensitive matter while surrounded by distractions or in a public space.

The discomfort and lack of privacy can hinder both parties from expressing themselves fully.

Instead, opt for a quiet, comfortable space to focus solely on the conversation.

Additionally, timing matters.

Initiating a complex discussion during moments of stress or exhaustion leads to unintended miscommunication.

By consciously choosing the right time and place, you create an atmosphere of respect and attentiveness, setting the stage for a more productive exchange of thoughts and emotions.

Seeking Common Ground

In a world that often emphasizes differences, seeking common ground is a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue.

The pursuit of shared interests, values, or goals forms a bridge between individuals, allowing them to connect on a human level before delving into the areas of contention.

Consider a workplace scenario where team members have opposing ideas about a project’s direction.

Instead of fixating on their differences, they explore their shared commitment to the team’s success. This common goal becomes a foundation upon which to build understanding and cooperation.

The practice of seeking common ground encourages empathy and reminds us we share a universal desire for connection and fulfillment beneath our disagreements.

By acknowledging these shared aspirations, we pave the way for more open, empathetic, and productive conversations.

Read this article to discover how to overcome difficult relationships.

Summary

As we arm ourselves with these strategies, it’s important to acknowledge difficult conversations require courage.

They ask us to step out of our comfort zones, embrace vulnerability, and challenge our assumptions.

The right time and place provide the canvas upon which our intentions are painted while seeking common ground fuels the engine of understanding.

Remember, these strategies aren’t about erasing differences or avoiding conflict.

Instead, they act as tools to facilitate dialogue, promote empathy, and ensure difficult conversations are approached with intention, respect, and a shared vision of resolution.

Venture forth armed with these strategies and begin bridging the gap.

One conversation at a time.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

Suzanne

We all have unlimited potential.

Hi! I’m Suzanne and welcome to my blog. For more than two decades of teaching, writing, and public speaking, I’ve been inspiring children, teens, and adults to cultivate their potential.

With proven experience and being a published author of conflict management and children’s books, you’ll find practical strategies for personal development.

Most importantly, you’ll discover life lessons for living a fulfilled life.

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