I get it. It always feels easier to ignore the thing that’s bothering you in your relationships – whether that be with your friend, coworker, boss, family member, or partner. 

You hope that the comment that rubbed you the wrong way or the awkward moment of tension will just pass and be a thing of the past. You hope that with enough time, both you and the other person will forget about that incident and things will just feel normal again.

If you just ignore it hard enough and for long enough, things will go back to how they once were, right?…

But what really ends up happening when you avoid difficult conversations?

Things don’t go back to normal. You don’t forget about the hurt, annoyance, or anger you felt towards that other person. Instead, the longer you go without having that hard conversation often results in tensions rising, things feeling more awkward, and becoming increasingly frustrated and irritated at the smallest issues. The comment or moment you initially hoped would pass becomes the foundation of all the following issues you have with the other person. 

So what can you do instead?

  1. Allow yourself the space to acknowledge the hurt you feel. Was there a particular instance? Was it something that was said? Or something that was done? Whatever it may be, take some intentional time to process through what has left you feeling however it is you’re feeling towards the other person.
  2. Brainstorm what you’d like to communicate to the other person. What are the most important things you’d like to say? Are there things you’d like to say first before following up with additional thoughts? Writing these things down might help you to understand what feels most crucial to eventually communicate to the other person.
  3. Talk those points through with someone who feels safe to you. It can be helpful to have another listening ear be on the receiving end of what you’d eventually like to communicate to the person you’ve felt hurt by. Perhaps that safe person can help you rephrase certain things or even remind you of other important things to mention. 

Difficult conversations are opportunities for individual and relational growth.

While it can initially feel easier to avoid those conversations, dodging them often results in increased tension, anxiety, annoyance, and hurt. Taking some intentional time to work through whatever the issue is between you and the other person may be what brings some actual peace and relief. It might even be an opportunity to strengthen and solidify your relationship with that individual. Moving forward, you may both understand one another better and know how to be a better friend, coworker, sister, brother, partner, etc. 

So take some time to pause, reflect, and communicate. It’s an important part of creating the deep, meaningful, safe relationships we all need to thrive. 

Rose So, MA
Rose So, MA

I help adolescents and young adults overcome life transitions and learn to thrive.