I think it’s fair to say that most people don’t enjoy having uncomfortable conversations. Our body’s physical reactions resemble something like sweaty palms or a heartbeat that feels like someone is playing the drums inside your chest. And often there can be a disconnect between our minds and the words that come out of our mouths. It happens to all of us at some point in our lives – that moment we’re standing in front of another person with the choice to have an uncomfortable conversation or walk away.
In November of 2019, I took the stage at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio to deliver a TED Talk on the subject of the power of human connection through uncomfortable conversations. There are many categories of uncomfortable conversations. For the purpose of this post and my presentation, I wasn’t talking about uncomfortable moments like, “I’ve worked hard for this company, and I’d like to ask for a raise.” Or, “Honey, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m in love with the neighbor lady and I’m moving out tonight.” Those are two totally different types of uncomfortable conversations, but uncomfortable nonetheless. What I wanted to focus on in my TED Talk was the power of HUMAN CONNECTION while holding uncomfortable space with another human being. Moments that might include: Attending a funeral home after your friend’s child dies; talking to a loved one after they’re diagnosed with a life-changing illness; knowing what to say when you’re child in being bullied at school for their uniqueness or differences; supporting someone you care about when they relapse from their addiction; having to say “I’m sorry” when you’ve hurt another person. These are just a few examples. I’m sure you can think of others happening in your life right now. But with each of the examples I listed, an opportunity is presented to forge human connection during an uncomfortable moment. This moment – if you choose to walk into it – it the key to our humanity. It’s called compassion.
The next time you find yourself saying, “What should I say? I don’t know what to say.” Be brave and walk into the uncomfortable moment with compassion in your heart.
This is a link to my TEDx Talk. I hope that my message and stories will speak to your heart. It was a dream come true for me (and an honor) to take this stage. But what I hope for the most is that hearing this message will ignite a change inside of you to have a difficult conversation fueled by love and compassion. And if fear is holding you back, do it afraid.