All difficult conversations are uncomfortable. Not all uncomfortable conversations have to be difficult.
I have uncomfortable conversations for a living. It is a passion, a calling, a practice, a way of navigating the mysteries of this life. They scare me and I crave them. Even so, like everyone, I find some conversations difficult, and I am thinking on what makes them so.
I believe the ease or difficulty of a conversation rests in the safety we are able to create and experience—the degree to which we are certain that in a particular interaction our humanity is a given, respect is mutual, and violence (verbal, emotional, physical, etc.) will neither be employed nor tolerated.
An uncomfortable conversation is, very simply, a vulnerable one. We can have uncomfortable conversations with grace (and I would argue that we must) because they are inextricably tied to our growth, evolution, connection, and liberation as relational beings. But a difficult conversation is clumsy; it takes our vulnerability and treats it with a lack of skill, care, and curiosity.
An uncomfortable conversation becomes a difficult conversation when we are unwilling or unable to be with our own discomfort, or with someone else’s, without disconnecting or inflicting harm – attacking, defending, controlling, or avoiding. An uncomfortable conversation becomes a difficult conversation when we anticipate disconnection or being harmed – defensiveness, attack, control, or avoidance – and we do not have the skills, boundaries, or leverage to navigate our experience.
It is never too late to learn and begin to practice the skills, care, curiosity, and willingness to be with the discomfort that will bring us more joyful connection and less suffering. This is good work.