There are issues that make us immediately uncomfortable. These differ from person to person, but the warning signs are usually the same. When it’s time to have those big talks that make us squirm in our seats, our palms sweat, our hearts race, and we do one of two things: we procrastinate, putting the talk off until it’s absolutely necessary, or we face it head-on, stuttering and pausing throughout the entire thing.
In reality, neither of these approaches is particularly desirable. In a perfect world, we’d be able to coast our way through every conversation. We’d never fear the awkwardness, the insecurity or the risks of damaging a cherished relationship. We’d just say what needed to be said, the other party would willingly accept that information, and all would be well. Yet that’s not how these things usually work.
If you know you need to sit down with someone and verbally work through a difficult issue, you might know that pit in your stomach all too well. Still, if there’s something you need to get off your chest or an issue you need to address, it’s time to make that move. Here are five signs you’re stalling and need to pencil in that conversation today, regardless of how much you don’t want to.
1. You’re afraid of being challenged.
Deep down, we all want to be right all of the time. As such, if we’re about to bring up a topic that could prove controversial, we know there’s a chance that our beliefs and knowledge base could be challenged. Unless we’re totally prepared with a slew of quick-witted and informed comebacks, we could leave the talk feeling defeated and embarrassed.
If you find yourself avoiding those heavy topics that require quick thinking and plenty of talking points, it could be because, deep down, you know you’re not prepared to back your case up. For instance, you might want to share news with your family that you’ve decided to veer from the norm when it comes to parenting your kids, pursuing your dream job, putting down roots and more.
Especially if you come from a traditional upbringing, any decision that’s too far outside of standard, expected territory may come with some level of questioning. If you’re unprepared to thoroughly explain and state your case, you might be holding up the meeting for that reason alone.
2. You don’t want to be disliked.
Will your opinion raise more than a few eyebrows? Are you worried that after you have this big talk, you won’t be perceived the same? If so, you may be putting it off in an effort to keep your reputation intact. We’ve all heard that famous Dr. Seuss quote, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Yet that’s so much easier said than done, especially when we think the world of the person on the other end of the conversation. While we could rattle off a number of reasons why it’s easiest to just shelf the issue for now, take a deep breath and think about who you’re talking to. Is this person generally accepting of you and embracing of your flaws? Do you feel like you can be yourself around them without fear of judgment or criticism?
If you answered “yes” to those two questions, move forward with confidence. What you have to say or share might be a surprise to them, but you’ll likely end the talk with a hug and a smile. If you don’t, maybe Dr. Seuss was right and that wasn’t a healthy relationship in the first place.
3. You’re afraid to face a problem head-on.
Sometimes, the hardest conversations aren’t those wherein we reveal something difficult or shocking about ourselves. Rather, they’re the ones that occur when we bring to light an issue that we believe the other party needs to address. For instance, you may have noticed that a loved one is acting isolated and sulken lately, and you need to check in with them on their mental health. Or maybe you have suspicions that someone you care about is abusing drugs or alcohol and you want to intervene before the spiral deepens.
In the cases, it’s important to tread with caution and lead with kindness. Doing anything other than that can immediately push away the other person and go against your intent to connect. To mitigate any chances of misunderstanding, do your due diligence before bringing up these concerns. This might mean that, before you inquire about someone’s potential drug addiction, you know how to recognize the signs of abuse. Taking this step can help you determine if what you’re guessing is actually true and how to proceed with both caution and clarity.
4. You’re hoping the point will resolve itself.
There’s always wishful thinking, right? If we’re honest, many times we’re procrastinating on having a big conversation because we’re hoping that any pressing issues we need to discuss will resolve on their own. Sometimes, that can happen. For example, you may be worried about telling your parents that you won’t be coming home for the holidays. Afraid to hurt their feelings and unsure how to navigate that talk, you put off calling them for a few weeks so you can gather your thoughts. In the meantime, they call you to let you know they’ve accepted an invitation to celebrate the holidays at the coast with some friends this year. In this case, your stalling paid off! You’re able to wish them well and send them on their way without feeling an ounce of guilt about staying put.
While this is a best case scenario, it’s rarely reality. That’s why it’s helpful to look at these difficult discussions as akin to pulling off a bandage. It won’t be pleasant but it can be quick, and eventually hurt feelings can heal.
5. You’re constantly apologizing for no good reason.
Do you find yourself saying “sorry” more than any other word in your vocabulary? Turns out, most us are this way. We apologize for things that don’t even require an apology! It stems from an innate need to be liked and cast in the best light possible. “Sorry” is a catch-all phrase that signifies good intention, honesty and integrity. If it rolls off your tongue on a daily basis, however, you could be overusing it, which can lead to low self-esteem. In turn, this can lead to an inability to speak up, even when something needs to be said.
Excessive apologizing tells others that we’re unsure of our place in this world and hesitant to take any action that might upset the apple cart, so to speak. If you identify with this, you may be putting off that important talk because you feel as though your points aren’t valid or that the other person won’t be interested in hearing what you have to say. Though no one can grow gallons of confidence overnight, you can start by taking baby step. Sometimes, simply repeating positive affirmations to yourself throughout the day can boost your feeling of self-worth and encourage you to make that phone call you’ve been dreading.
Finding New Ways to Talk It Out
Of course, thanks to digitization, an in-person conversation is no longer the only way you can get ahold of someone. Rather, you can now send a text, email or even social media message to express your sentiments and catalyze a conversation.
Whatever your preferred method of dialogue, it’s important that you take strides in that direction when you’re ready. We don’t always love to push through those uncomfortable emotions and possibly evoke them in others, but there are some things worth speaking up for and about, even if it takes everything we have.