Too often we ignore how we truly feel about the people or situations that bother us. We have good reasons. Many reasons.
We push feelings away, avoid what’s happening, and endure over a long time.
Let’s say you have a friend whose values and beliefs are miles apart from yours. She always needs to convince you how right she is, but your values are fundamentally different and you stand by them.
She’s been a friend for a long time, so you tell yourself you can put up with her.
Maybe you sit, listen to her and nod, all the while gritting your teeth. Suddenly, you notice a headache behind your eyes.
When the two of you do get together, you drink more than you should and eat too much. Anything to dull the experience. Because you are determined not to have a conversation. It wouldn’t go down well. You’ve tried before and you know how she responds.
There’s no reason that you can think of for bringing anything up. You don’t need to burn bridges, and you might, if you started talking.
Over time, you’ve been seeing less and less of her, so there’s no need to confront her in any way, you decide. You can do this. It’s not so hard to make the effort.
However, you notice that for days before you see her, you feel anxious, and then for several days after, you remember how deeply unpleasant it was – and you can’t shake the feelings off easily.
But you take a deep breath, and leave it alone until you worry about it again the next time she calls and wants to see you.
It seems like a little price to pay for peace, doesn’t it? But how much peace is there really?
Putting up with things that drain us builds up.
We convince ourselves that the cost of setting boundaries, saying no, and stating what we want and need would be too difficult or risky.
We fear that in stating what we prefer, they’ll get upset or worse, angry.
But if your young child was the object of bullying, you’d step in and stop the harassment. She might not be able to, but you could.
If your pet became ill and the symptoms were not too severe, you’d wait for a day or so. But on day three, you’d rush to the vet.
You get no less bruising, wounding and pain just because you put off dealing with situations that are unacceptable.
You may as well be kicked, beaten, and bullied for how your body and psyche deal with the pounding.
It adds up. Don’t kid yourself.
State Facts Gently
At some point, you learned how to speak in a civil way. In a way that just stated facts.
If your end game is to keep the relationship alive and if her ideas don’t cross a line that you can’t live with, you can experiment with a new approach.
“This topic,” you might gently say to your friend, “leads us nowhere. You will not convince me of your position and I don’t need to convince you of mine. Let’s end this conversation.”
Or this: “I love you no matter what you believe, and I want to talk about something else. Could we do that? What else can we talk about?”
And this: “I’m taking this topic off the table for now.”
And if any of that doesn’t work, you can always make another factual statement.
“I am no longer willing to talk about this subject. If you must, then I will leave right away.”
Those are facts.
You don’t call her names. You don’t blame or shame her, or even let anger confuse you. With focus, you put a gentle stop to it. Respectfully.
Defending yourself is unnecessary. Explanations are unnecessary.
And finally, if you must, you have your plan to leave all worked out.
You deserve to respect yourself. And the care you bring to your relationship is respectful of it as well.
We humans are endlessly creative. Gentleness and creativity go a long way.
Go on. You can do it.
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