A few days ago, I had a conversation with a colleague that didn’t go well, and I left feeling unheard and unvalued. Instead of sending the email I spoke of in my last post, I spent some time processing with a few friends to figure out what I was really upset about. It was not the content of the conversation, but the subtext, that upset me.
Being mindful during conversations is incredibly difficult. There is so much to attend to, from what the other person is saying, our initial reactions to what they are saying, how we formulate words that capture our thoughts and feelings in a way that can be heard, checking if we have been heard, checking if we understand what is being said, etc. etc. etc. When you tease it apart, it can be incredibly overwhelming.
When I called my colleague to revisit our earlier conversation, it was so relieving to be able to tell her how I felt and why. It also opened a space for her to be able to clarify her earlier statements. And, as far as I could tell, both of us got off the phone feeling better for having talked again. In this case, there was a baseline understanding that we were both consciously focused on communicating well (not always the case).
We can’t control what the other person says or does, or even hears, but being able to speak our honest truth can be so powerful. To tell someone, “I was hurt by this,” instead of having that conversation in your head a million times, or fuming at them, or wishing them away, is freeing. Turning into the difficult conversations requires vulnerability and can provide such sweet relief.