Columns, Opinion

Intentional Evolution: If you can’t tell them what’s wrong, they aren’t your friend

Some people cope with their personal issues by going to therapy, which I have tried. Some people cope by working out, painting, meditating, journaling or whatever else it is that centers them. I also have experimented with these.

While all great options, they are, for the most part, done independently.

Most of my time spent in therapy — from middle school to now — was spent talking about issues I had with other people. Whether it be my best friend of six years, my mom, my coach or the guy I was talking to at the time.

Did I get valuable insight into these relationships from therapy? Yes.

Did it resolve the conflict within these relationships? No.

For open communication to be productive, there are three requirements.

One is a certain degree of maturity. Am I saying I have all of the answers to life’s questions at 18? My dad thinks I do, but no. It just takes an understanding that everyone was brought up differently and taught different ways to think about or prioritize things in life.

Besides this basic acknowledgment that everyone is different, you also need the maturity to remain calm and give the other person the opportunity to explain their behavior, in addition to possibly critiquing yours. Being able to hear someone out is the hardest part of communication, because everyone is conditioned to think they are right.

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With this in mind, the last component of a healthy conversation is flexibility in the form of empathy. Trying to see the situation from the other person’s perspective, however impossible it may seem, will allow the conversation to remain fluid rather than stagnant.

In order to respect one another’s time and stop the conversation from going in circles, you must be willing to drop your ego and actively work to understand the other person.

So, why do people go to therapy and talk to a stranger instead of resolving these interpersonal issues themselves?

Two reasons. One, it brings in a third party with an unbiased perspective. Especially when it comes to personal, emotional conflicts, we can all benefit from being exposed to different interpretations. This exposure to a new perspective will help you learn empathy, and through that, maturity.

The second reason, at least for me, is I was always scared of losing the other person or having an explosive fight. What I learned in therapy was if the other person cares enough, a conversation will only result in a better understanding and an improved dynamic.

If you both approach the conversation in a mature, calm and flexible way, there is a low chance that a fight will happen. Disagreement? Sure.

But disagreement isn’t a reason to shy away from these open conversations with the people you love. Good things come from being honest.

If you are struggling with a friendship- or relationship-related issue by yourself, you will silently resent the other person until you reach your limit. This is usually what causes an explosive fight, hurt feelings and, most importantly, a failure to create positive change.

We shouldn’t be labeling people who seek out these conversations as aggressive or confrontational. Instead, we must learn to appreciate this trait. I have heard too many people label themselves as non-confrontational — as though it were a good thing — when in fact avoiding conflict is not a healthy basis on which to build your relationships.

Do not be afraid to vocalize your concerns in your relationships. Vocality allows you to compromise with others to find solutions that work for you both. Learn to refine your voice and use it to improve the quality of your relationships.

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