I have a unique trait. I talk to myself. I hold conversations with myself in my head with other people. The subject matter varies but they are mostly things someone has done to hurt me. I usually start by tabling before the person what they have done and what I feel about it, I then assume the person’s response based on my last conversation or association with the person and my perception of their position on the subject matter. The conversation goes back and forth between myself and the person until I come to a conclusion as to the person’s motives and intentions.
The advantages I have by holding these conversations are two-fold. I am able to name, understand and put into perspective the depths of my feelings on the subject at hand and I am also prepared (at least from my side) for a real life conversation with the person when it occurs as I try as much as possible to be objective and brutally honest with myself about both parties’ position. There are major drawbacks to this line of conversation, in that, the positions, opinions and motives I ascribe to the person are from my assumptions and understanding of their person which is not likely to be totally factual or the truth. Another is that, I tend to react to the person in real life based on the position, explanations, motives I ascribed to him or her in the conversations in my head. I must say here that most times I have found my conclusions to be about 80% correct but the remaining 20% have been fatal to the relationship as I have been known to hold people responsible for something they have not thought of let alone said.
I believe I started using this method to resolve issues I had with people because like most of us, I dreaded having confrontations with people due to several reasons- I wasn’t sure if the relationship will survive the confrontation, I was afraid of exposing my vulnerabilities and creating boundaries, I was often of the mistaken belief that the person’s actions were intentional, I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I owed myself the responsibility for airing out my wants and desires in the relationship instead of thinking the other person should know them, l was afraid of either hurting the other person or their anger and reaction and/ or of being out -witted, overpowered and hurt. That is however not to say that if confrontations arose I will shy away from them but I rarely brought them up until either the circumstances warranted or I erupted due to pent up emotions.
However, as I grew to understand the nature of relationships, I realized that I had been playing the ostrich in many of my relationships in the midst of unpleasant or unfavorable circumstances whilst wishing the situation will right itself without my having to confront it when my body (attitude/ actions) was visible to all.
It is undisputed that offenses will occur in every relationship no matter the nature, whether it be between an employer /employee, husband/ wife, parent / child, siblings etc and where parties confront offenses, their relationship tends to be healthier than that of people who refuse to confront their issues either by ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist.
As Mrs. Modupe Ehirim of The Right Fit Marriage Academy, a relationship outfit aimed at improving marriages by mentoring them often states” Hot conversations must be had between couples.” By hot conversations, she means that parties in a relationship must have open, frank and sometimes unpleasant discussions wherein they discuss difficult topics that they hold different opinions on due to their upbringing, life perspective etc in a bid to finding a middle ground acceptable to all.
Like me, most of us, have attempted either by our own initiative or through circumstances to confront people without much success. I have since discovered the main culprit of our failures to be the way and manner in which we communicate our grievances. The truth is that most times we are not clear or specific about what our grievance is. We (especially women) tend to generalize a lot. We say things like- you always, you never. which causes the other person to immediately become defensive. When we do this often, especially accompanied with nagging, the person tends to switch off from the conversation until we stop talking. Also, because of our hurts we tend to speak “the truth” from a place of anger with the motive of revenge in a bid to make the person suffer for the wrong done, however, the lack of objectivity we display often tend to color our confrontations with accusations, intimidation and control.
So how do we have these conversations
1. We settle in our mind what the issues are, our feelings about them and the effect it has on the relationship and we state them as precisely as possible.
2. We presume the other party innocent of any ill -will towards us though their actions may state otherwise. The truth is some people just don’t have an idea as to the effect of their actions and behaviors on others.
3. We let the person know the effect of their behavior on themselves, ourselves and others and the consequences of that behavior.
4. Speak the truth in love, be direct but not harsh, don’t speak in codes, don’t presume the person has an idea of what you are talking about or should fish it out from your mind.
5. Acknowledge and apologize for your part in the state of the relationship.
6. Avoid all efforts to be sidetracked by the other person. We tend to steer off track especially when the person turns the conversation against us by bringing up our own shortcomings which in turn removes the focus from the original offense. This has happened to me severally especially with Mr Aisi and I finally dealt it with by asking that he waits till another time to bring up my shortcomings as the only agenda for the present meeting was his behavior. An exception to the rule was if the reason for his present behavior was directly related to my action being brought up.
I am aware that in spite of all we may do to confront certain issues in our relationships, there are instances where the other party refuses to have the conversations, rationalizes their behavior, are defensive, in denial or minimize the issues raised as being inconsequential. In these situations, it is advisable to invite third parties either as witnesses or to confront the person and carry out an intervention of some sort. First on the agenda should be to get to the bottom of why they are resistant and thereafter an attempt at reconciling of the parties.
Offenses will surely come but we should never be afraid of confrontations for they help us to discover much about ourselves and others and if they are handled well, they lead to better and healthier relationships.