Okay, people. You know who you are. At the very hint of conflict or difficult conversation, you
bring out your special smile and look for the nearest hiding place while mumbling, “Where is
that invisibility cloak when I need it?” or maybe, “Fine, I’m fine, I’m totally fine.” Then you
ruminate for a week or two about what to say and how to say it, because you are most
decidedly NOT fine. These five truths are for you. While I fully acknowledge that conflict is
difficult, let’s get some perspective. The sun rises every morning and the stars come out at
night without your help. Yes, the anxiety is absolutely real, but you can feel anxiety and speak
up too. I promise, you can get through this conversation.
1. You live and breathe, so you matter, which means you have every right to speak up. Period.
It’s a very common feeling to think you shouldn’t speak up. It’s quite possible that everyone
except you wants you to speak up. So ask for what you need. If I’m not thirsty, I may not realize
you need a drink of water.
2. Name what your real fears are. Put them on a list. Is each thing a reality, or do you just fear it
might happen? Bad things happen, yes. Maybe even the worst happens. I’m here to assure you
that there isn’t anything we can’t work through if one or both are willing to be persistent in
preserving the relationship. I’ve seen too many healed relationships to write off any situation as
impossible. Understand the fear can have such a choke hold that you are essentially paralyzed,
quite literally, making the situation far worse on every level.
3. When you do speak up, talk louder and slower. I know this might seem ridiculous, but when
your brain hears a confident voice, it makes a big difference. IT WILL SOUND LIKE A FIRE ALARM IN YOUR HEAD, so prepare to be uncomfortable, but no one else will bat an eye. I would bet you my last Diet Coke that no one will even notice you are talking louder; they will simply
continue the conversation. I dare you to try it.
4. Practice using specific phrases when things are awkward in your everyday conversation but
aren’t yet a full-blown conflict. I call these pocket phrases. The more you hear your own voice
using the actual words, the more normal it will be for you. Since we don’t practice managing
conflicts every day, the shock of being thrown into one can throw us off balance, and
withdrawal or silence can become our go-to defense. Phrases like, “I get that and have some
concerns,” or, “Let’s make a pros and cons list,” or, “My experience has been ___.” If the very
thought of speaking up immediately is just something you can’t do right now, I get that.
Understand though, that the longer you wait, the harder it will be. If you normally need two
weeks to work up the courage to bring up a difficult conversation, decrease that time to one
week. Any decrease is a big step in the right direction. You can still use the same pocket phrase
after you remind people about the topic. “Last week, you brought up the possibility of taking a
new job, which would mean a move. Let’s make a pros and cons list.”
5. Talk less, just be clear. Do you have to talk about everything? Nope!! For those of you with a
low word count, this should be good news. But Amanda Box law says that you either deal with
the conflict or get over it. Pick one and create a plan for how you want to proceed. Don’t
delude yourself into thinking that no one notices you’re upset. They aren’t buying it and would
much rather you go ahead and speak up, than to pretend nothing is wrong.
If you are making progress on any of these five areas, you are doing great! I’m seriously proud
of you. Will Smith often quotes his grandmother, “Everything you want is on the other side of