Why Do We Avoid Uncomfortable and Difficult Conversations?
Have you ever found yourself holding back from sharing your true feelings or opinions with someone close to you? Perhaps you have even tried to have that conversation before, only to regret it afterwards. If so, you are not alone. Many of us struggle with uncomfortable conversations, and as a result, we may avoid them altogether. In this article, we will explore the reasons why we tend to shy away from these types of discussions and how we can learn to approach them in a healthier way.
What are Uncomfortable Conversations?
Uncomfortable conversations can take many forms, from asking for a favor to expressing a dissenting opinion. It can be uncomfortable to ask for something we are not sure we deserve or if the other person agrees. Maybe you lent a friend or family member money, and now you want it back, but it feels awkward to ask because you worry you might be seen as insensitive or that the other person is still struggling. We often overthink these situations, imagining worst-case scenarios and worrying about how the other person will react. But overthinking can make the situation even more uncomfortable, and we end up avoiding the conversation altogether. So why do we avoid these difficult conversations, and how can we learn to have them more comfortably?
4 Examples of Uncomfortable and Difficult Conversations
Uncomfortable conversations are something that we all experience at some point in our lives. Whether it is asking for a promotion or expressing our feelings to our loved ones, these conversations can be challenging and make us feel anxious or stressed. In this section, we will explore some examples of uncomfortable situations that we often encounter, and how to navigate them effectively.
1. Asking for a promotion: Asking for a promotion can be tricky, especially when we are not sure if we are ready or if our manager thinks we are deserving of one. It is natural to feel nervous and unsure when approaching this conversation, but avoiding it altogether could hold us back from achieving our career goals. We might end up overthinking the situation and doubting our abilities, which only makes the conversation more difficult.
2. Splitting finances with a partner: Another uncomfortable conversation that we may have with our loved ones is about splitting finances, especially when we start living together. It can be challenging to talk about money and make sure that both parties are on the same page. We might worry that our partner will react negatively or become defensive, causing more conflict and tension in the relationship.
3. Expressing hurt feelings: Sometimes, we need to have challenging conversations with our loved ones to express how we feel. For example, if our partner said something hurtful, we might keep it to ourselves to avoid conflict. However, suppressing our emotions could cause resentment and bitterness over time, and eventually harm our relationship. It's essential to communicate effectively and express our feelings in a way that our loved ones can understand.
4. Sharing different opinions: Lastly, sharing different opinions with our friends or family members can be uncomfortable, especially if those opinions contradict our values and beliefs. We might worry about hurting someone's feelings or damaging our relationships with them. However, avoiding these conversations altogether can lead to unresolved conflicts, and we might end up feeling stressed and resentful. It's crucial to have an open and honest dialogue and listen to each other's perspectives.
Why Do We Avoid Difficult Conversations?
So, why do we tend to avoid uncomfortable conversations like these? Let's explore two prominent schools of thought. First, we'll take a deep dive into the neuroscience behind why we avoid uncomfortable conversations, followed by a look at the psychological perspective.
A Neuroscientific Explanation
First, the answer might lie in our brain's natural response to conflict and disagreement. When we anticipate a difficult conversation, our brain goes into "alarm" mode because it perceives the relationship as being at risk. In other words, our brain thinks that the disagreement might damage our relationship with the person we are talking to, and it wants to protect us from potential harm.
This reaction is due to the amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure in our brain that is responsible for our fight-or-flight response. When we are faced with a perceived threat, the amygdala is activated, and we go into "alert" mode. This activation results in our brain focusing on worst-case scenarios, which can cause us to say things we don't mean or to derail the conversation.
On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking and decision-making, is deactivated during this response. As a result, we are not thinking clearly, and we tend to avoid the conversation altogether.
So, the next time you find yourself wanting to avoid a difficult conversation, remember that it is just your brain's natural response to protect you. However, try to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to engage in the conversation with a rational mindset. By doing so, you might be able to resolve the issue and strengthen the relationship instead of damaging it.
A Psychological Explanation
According to psychologists, there are several reasons why we tend to avoid difficult conversations. One of the main reasons is fear of conflict. Many people fear that having a difficult conversation will lead to an argument or even a fight, and they would rather avoid the conversation altogether than risk such an outcome. This fear can be particularly strong if the conversation involves a sensitive topic or if the other person has a history of reacting negatively to feedback or criticism.
Another reason we tend to avoid difficult conversations is the discomfort they can cause. We often feel uneasy or anxious about bringing up a difficult topic, and we may worry about how the other person will react. In some cases, we may even feel guilty or ashamed about something we need to bring up, and this can make the conversation even more difficult. It is natural to want to avoid these uncomfortable feelings, but doing so can ultimately lead to more problems down the line.
Finally, we may avoid difficult conversations simply because we lack the skills or confidence to have them. Many of us have never been taught how to have productive, respectful conversations about difficult topics, and we may feel unsure about how to approach the conversation or what to say. Additionally, if we have had negative experiences with difficult conversations in the past, we may be hesitant to try again. However, avoiding these conversations can actually make it harder to develop the skills and confidence we need to have them in the future.
In summary, avoiding difficult conversations is a common behavior, and it is understandable why we tend to avoid them. Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, and difficult conversations can be uncomfortable, confrontational, and even threatening. Moreover, past experiences, cultural upbringing, and fear of rejection can also play a role in our avoidance of difficult conversations.
However, avoiding difficult conversations can have negative consequences in the long run, such as unresolved conflicts, misunderstandings, and damaged relationships. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to have difficult conversations effectively and with empathy. One solution is to develop healthy boundaries, which can help us feel more comfortable and confident in addressing difficult issues with others. By setting boundaries, we can communicate our needs and expectations clearly, while also respecting the needs and boundaries of others. Take care.
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