The gift of difficult conversation

I have been participating in some difficult conversations of late, and enjoying the opportunity for growth they present.

Sometimes, my very full house strains a little at the seams of passionate debate and I think about how lucky we are to live among people who care so deeply, express themselves so freely and listen with such care.

Our conversations do not always end in consensus, but they do elicit empathy and a broader understanding of the world around.

“Could you just read this?” I asked my daughter Molly when we arrived at a recent impasse.

“I will, if you read this,” she replied.

So, we both spent some time in the valuable pursuit of perspective and in equal enjoyment of elegant prose.

We did not resolve our difference of opinion, but we did affirm our mutual respect.

Sometimes I think people cheat themselves out of necessary conversations because they think the only successful ones end in agreement.

How stagnant our world would be, how boring its conversations, if we all agreed on everything.

The trick, of course, is to maintain that mutual respect and to treat yourself to the refreshing opportunity of an open mind.

I hope and pray that many Americans will accept the gift of difficult conversations in the coming days and listen thoughtfully even if they do not always agree.

7 thoughts on “The gift of difficult conversation

  1. i just had one of those difficult conversations. I sometimes tell people that we can’t really have a deep relationship with someone unless we go to the deep places. However, I know people who would prefer to stay on the surface and preserve what they have and keep things just as they are. For the most part I think we ought to speak peaceably. But there are times to challenge and to exercise our debate muscles. At times I make things awkward for awhile, but later I point out that we know each other so much better as a result. I always try to draw back before anything escalates, however. These kinds of conversations also help us understand each of our boundaries and we need to respect these. I also need to be able to take as much as I give. The point is that we allow room for others to differ and that we not become contentious or defensive. As you say, it is definitely a skill. Some are born or raised with more ’emotional intelligence.’ This can be learned by paying careful attention and reflecting and maybe doing some reading on the subject of communication. I know I learned a lot from a book called People Skills and wish I had read it decades earlier. I think the important thing is that we understand/believe that we are looking out for one another’s good. There have been times when I have had to put my desire to share strong feelings and deeply held beliefs on hold, even for years, especially when it comes to those closest to me. Preserving the relationship is always at the top of my mind. I have found navigating this very challenging. My, this comment got rather long. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for this response. I appreciate your insights and that you take the time to share them so generously on this blog. I agree that we have to stand up for what we strongly believe. I also think it’s really helpful to stay open to information and ideas that may shift those beliefs one way or another. Stay true to ourselves but recognize that we are constantly growing and evolving humans. Thank you for the book recommendation. I will check it out. Have a great day!

      1. Yes, we need to stay open. In recent years I have shifted away from some of my strongly held views and then come back, slightly re-positioned. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book, as I did.

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