Reality Check: Telling It Like It Is

Do you find it difficult to talk about things that are really important?
It’s easier to talk about the trivial, especially when we agree. We commiserate about the weather and the price of gas. We share our delight about the upcoming spring, and despair of the potholes. There seems no limit to the words we speak about topics that don’t matter all that much.
I’m not discounting the value of simple, pleasant conversation. It’s through such chats that we learn about each other; that we share, bond, and amuse.
For example, do chickadees say “cheeseburger” or “sweet weather” at this time of year? Maybe the question isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. However, it gets you looking and listening to your world in a new way. Simple amusing conversations add value to our lives.
Now, let’s think about conversation topics that are really important, even life-changing.
If you’re of a certain age, you might remember this lyric line: “I just wish I could have told him in the living years.” It comes from the aptly named song, “The Living Years,” written about the death of a father and things that will now never be said.
Are there uncomfortable topics that we’d like to discuss in our living years? Is it worth plowing through the discomfort to do it? And if we decide that it is, how would we even go about it?
One question that I ask myself as a criteria for many types of decisions is: “Is what I’m about to say going to make anything better? Or will it make things worse?”
So when Amy tells me, “I wish my grandchildren would visit. I hardly know them; I never see them and I’m not going to be around forever,” then my response tends to be, “Telling me is fine, but have you told anyone who can do anything about it?”
Why would Amy not want to say directly to her family, “I’d love to see you; you know I won’t be around forever”? Perhaps she thinks it will be interpreted as a complaint. Choice theory views complaining as one of those deadly habits that destroys relationships.
Yet a different way of looking is that Amy’s statement is simply a piece of information, and a completely realistic one at that. All we humans can give each other is information. Individually, we are in charge of how we receive that information and what we choose to do with it.
No degree of positive thinking will remove the reality that we will experience partings in our lives. How do we make the best of the days that we are given? For Amy, perhaps expressing that she’d like to share some of those days with the people she cares about would help.
Another reluctance can stem from the discomfort of spending time with someone who is no longer the vibrant, active person they used to be. “I want to remember her like she was” is an understandable sentiment.
It’s distressing to see someone we love when they are no longer at their best. Perhaps they don’t even remember us. It’s tough.
So, which is better? We stay away, keeping the memory of the person intact and comfort ourselves with that. Then upon death, we commiserate at a memorial
Or, we show up while the person is still alive, even though they are not at their best. We act to bring cheer to that person now, while they are living.
It is our choice. Both options involve distress. But one also brings a satisfaction with it.
Talking can be difficult. But if we have appreciation, love, and respect to share, why not do it, before it’s too late?
How do you start a difficult conversation?

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