I recently experienced a sudden realization. An ah-ha moment. Much of life’s success and failure is tethered to relationships and the flourishing or deterioration of a relationship comes down to conversations or the lack thereof. Let me be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about just any conversation; but transparent, authentic, honest conversations grounded and marked by truth.

The importance of conversation is nothing new. The second chapter of Genesis reveals, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so God created a companion for him, a perfectly suited partner. God formed a woman from the rib taken out of the man and presented her to him. Adam responds ‘At last! A suitable companion, a perfect partner. Bone from my bones. Flesh from my flesh.’” One chapter later, Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other and with God is inextricably shattered by a failure to communicate specifically by Adam’s passivity.

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Let’s go personal and examine the characteristics of a vibrant, flourishing marriage. You will find at its core a couple devoted to genuine, open, sincere, and frequent conversations. Similarly, show me a positive, growing business relationship and it will be clearly distinguishable by a high degree of trust; the kind of trust that only comes through truthful conversations.

couple with two cups of morning coffee on sunrise light

sumkinn ©

Given that the trajectory of a relationship hinges on candid dialogue, why do we so often lack the courage to engage in it? Here are some roadblocks and ideas worth consideration to overcome them:

Obstacle: Authenticity is Too Hard

Authenticity is not something you have; it’s something you choose. Adam sat silent while the serpent deceived Eve. Likewise, we often avoid conversation altogether or dance on the surface out of fear. Cowardice, complacency, and passivity kill true conversation, distort reality, and eventually injure relationships.

Let’s be real, our culture has produced an ocean of soft, weak, pussified men who shun transparency and authenticity because it involves hard work. I see this firsthand daily when men settle for porn over their partner. I believe it’s why millennials are delaying marriage in droves. It’s a low bar to invest in an image on a screen when compared to a real relationship with a fervent commitment to truthful conversation.

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Solution: Bravely engage in conversation. Remain humble while you interrogate the reality of the person with whom you want a deeper relationship by asking questions without defensiveness or pushback. If you’re stuck, simply stick with asking questions and nothing else. You’ll walk away better informed with an enriched perspective of the other’s reality.

Obstacle: Nothing Will Change

Our beliefs inform our behavior. Behavior drives our results. Often our feelings and beliefs regarding a certain person with whom we’re experiencing a poor relationship are rooted in false truths due to a lack of conversations. Cynicism is easy and common. It doesn’t take effort, so we operate out of our jaded reality and allow it to negatively impact our behavior and ultimately our results.

Sometimes the change needs to come from you, not from an outside source. Are you operating out of a warped reality not tethered to truth? Maybe you are the common denominator in a failing business or personal relationship. Is it possible that it stems from your belief that nothing will change? In the absence of credible, unguarded conversation failure to change is the only certainty. Avoiding the issue will assure a slow, gradual, and sudden death of a relationship.

Solution: If we are dissatisfied with our results, we need to start by examining and challenging our beliefs. Question your beliefs and gain clarity by speaking to the other party in your relationship. One way to discern the most important topic in need of discussion is by asking yourself what the single greatest conversation is you most want to avoid. This is the exact conversation you must engage in. 

Obstacle: The Emotional Cost is Too High

For many whom are engaging in a discussion regarding the “hundred-pound gorilla”, both parties refuse to acknowledge the issue and subsequently avoid it at all costs because it's simply too emotionally draining. They may care about the relationship, but not enough to start the conversation. The problem is that the depth and value of the relationship hinges on the clarity, conviction, and compassion of the conversation. No conversation equals no relationship.

The fact that we think the emotional cost is too high says we’ve already played things out in our mind. In doing so, we’ve already confined our thinking via assumptions without consideration to the cost of saying nothing or soft selling the situation with less than honest, authentic clarity. This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and puts the conversation in a box without space for improvisation and the ability to learn.

Solution: Keep in mind the conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship. Talking may be emotional, but you risk no greater wound than the death of the relationship by saying nothing at all. Choose a time when the person has the mind space to focus on the conversation and come fully engaged (i.e. turn off your cell phone). Assuage emotions by opening the conversation by saying you want to talk with them vs saying you need to talk to them. It sets the tone that you are in this together to find resolution.

I hope the above obstacles and solutions compel you to find the courage and humility to tackle tough conversations for the benefit of deeper relationships.

Header image credit:  sumkinn ©

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