Episode 137 Having Difficult Conversations Without Your Emotions Taking Over (1)

Having a Difficult Conversation without Your Emotions Taking Over

If you’ve been putting off having a conversation because you get emotional and forget what you want to say, or you break down, or anger takes over, this episode is for you.

It’s most likely no one ever taught you how to talk about difficult topics. It’s also probably likely that no one taught you healthy emotional management skills. If those two things are true for you, stop shaming yourself for not being able to express yourself in the way you want to, and listen to this episode to get some help.

If you’re wanting to have a difficult conversation with another person, but your emotions take over and you can’t say what you want to say without getting angry or breaking down crying, download:

The Difficult Conversation Guide

In this guide, I’ll help you know what to do before, during, and after the conversation. You’ll also learn some amazing, and easy to learn emotional management skills that you can use long after this conversation is over.

Click here to download:

Have a difficult conversation with your husband

Have a difficult conversation with your adult child

Links mentioned in this episode:

Episode 137 – Is it Conflict or Contention?

Episode 127 -Losing Strategy #3 – Unbridled Self-expression

YouTube video with metronomes demonstrating Sympathetic Resonance

Full Transcript

Tina Gosney  00:01

If you’re struggling in your family relationships, and nothing you do makes it any better. Maybe even gets worse. You’re in the right place. My name is Tina Gosney, your host, as well as your family relationship coach, and positive relationship strategist. When you make peace with what’s happening inside of yourself, you’ll begin to find the peace you’re looking for in your relationships. This is the coaching your family relationships, podcast, let’s get started.

Tina Gosney  00:32

Hey, welcome to the podcast. This is Tina, I’m so glad you’re here today, I have noticed a theme in the conversations that I have had with quite a few people over the last few months. And that theme is we can’t have a difficult conversation without our emotions, taking over and running the show. And we’re doing all sorts of things. Instead of having a conversation, we’re doing all sorts of different things. And avoiding that conversation because we don’t trust ourselves to be able to show up and hold on to our motions. And remember what we want to say, and still stay in the conversation.

Tina Gosney  01:16

This is the reason that I’ve created a Difficult Conversation Guide, it’s totally free, you can pick it up, there’s a link in the show notes, there are two different versions, there’s one for having a difficult conversation with your husband, there’s another one for having a difficult conversation with your adult child. And I’ve got you in this guide, you’re gonna be able to know what to do ahead of time, you’re gonna be able to prep a walk you through the prep, all make sure that you know what, what might happen during the conversation, and what to do after the conversation.

Tina Gosney  01:53

But what I think is the most valuable part of this difficult conversation guide is the emotional management tools that I give you, there, I’ve got three different things that you can practice every single day. And they’re really basic beginner level, emotional management skills. These things are not just going to help you in having a difficult conversation, they’re going to help you every day, no matter what you’re going through.

Tina Gosney  02:24

So go pick up that guide, go click the link in the show notes, get your copy. And I’d love to hear from you afterwards about how this went for you. Or if you have any questions, you can always email me. And let me know if you’re struggling you need more further clarification or if you need more help with it. Or if you just want to let me know how your conversation went, I would just love to hear from you.

Tina Gosney  02:46

Why do we avoid difficult conversations? Well, mainly, because we get so emotional, because we don’t know how to manage our emotions and have a conversation. At the same time. I see mainly two different scenarios that people are telling me that they’re going through. And maybe one of these sounds like you check it out and see. So you start to have a conversation. But the tears start to flow. And then you forget everything that you want to say, your mind goes completely blank can’t remember anything. And you stumble over your words, or you just don’t say anything at all. Two hours later, you can think of all the things that you wanted to say. And you think of the best way that you could have expressed yourself or the best thing that you could have done to reply to that thing that they said, and then you start beating yourself up. And you say to yourself, What is wrong with me? Why didn’t I think of this two hours ago?

Tina Gosney  03:49

Okay, that’s one scenario.

Tina Gosney  03:51

The other scenario is you start to have this conversation, it starts to go downhill very quickly, you get angry, you start arguing, you stop listening to what they have to say, you start interrupting, or you only listen long enough to find something that you disagree with. And then all you’re thinking about is what you’re going to say once they stop talking. So you’re consumed in your own thoughts with your reply rather than listening to what they have to say. Both of those situations, show what happens with a dysregulated nervous system. We’ve gotten at this point we’ve gotten into a fight flight or freeze state and our higher brain gets flipped.

Tina Gosney  04:36

This is what I mean by that. And it’s actually where the term flipped your lid comes from. So your higher brain literally sits on top of the rest of your brain like a lid. This is where this higher brain is where the best version of you the most reasonable thinking part of you the best responding part of you lives. But when you get into the fight In flight or freeze, your brain goes offline, it doesn’t get all the oxygen that you need for that all that wisdom that you’ve stored up there, your body, since it’s in this reactive state, it thinks that you need to survive.

Tina Gosney  05:16

What it does, is it reroutes oxygen away from things like higher thinking, which is your higher brain. And instead, it sends oxygen and blood, all your resources to what you need to survive, it’s going to put more oxygen and blood into your lungs, and your heart and your limbs, because you’re gonna have to at that heart is going to have to pump and it’s going to need to be really hard. And you’re you might have to start running, right, so you can escape, or you might have to fight. So that’s what happens to our bodies. This is why we get emotional, we forget things that we want to say. Or we just stop listening. And we get into that fight mode, where I’m not going to listen to you, I’m just going to defend myself. That’s what’s happening here.

Tina Gosney  06:01

We don’t show up as our best selves, when our nervous system is in a fight flight freeze mode. Our best selves, who will love this person that we’re talking to, is not present in the conversation, that best self is shut down, and is offline. And when that happens, it’s very easy to say or do things that you later regret. So we cannot avoid conflict in our relationships, it is going to be there. It’s just a given, we need to expect that it will happen. And when we try to avoid it, maybe by telling somebody like, hey, just forget and move on, we don’t need to deal with this.

Tina Gosney  06:45

We are not solving conflict, we are pushing away the problem. And whatever you push away, will eventually push back on you. Just because someone isn’t expressing how their their conflicts, what they’re having what they’re having struggles with doesn’t mean that the conflict isn’t there. It just means that you’ve kind of shut them down if you don’t want to address it, and they don’t feel safe coming to you and opening up. So often what happens is it brews just underneath the surface of every interaction. And when that happens, you’re much more likely to move into contention.

Tina Gosney  07:24

I did an episode recently, you can just go through the history. I don’t know the exact number, but I did just a few weeks ago did an episode, which was conflict versus contention. So if you want to know more about what the difference is, I want you to go back and listen to that episode. Basically, conflict is good contention is not, we need to learn to address the conflict in a healthy way, or relational way, instead of pushing it away. And assuming that it’s gone, because it’s not gone, what’s happening is you’re sweeping it under the rug, you’re sweeping the garbage under the rug, do that long enough, think about how many times you sweep something under a rug, you’re going to get a really big pile of garbage under the rug, both of you are going to start tripping over it, it’s always going to be there this like undercurrent in their relationship. And you’re both trying to pretend it’s not there. Or you’re both saying to yourself, I should just be able to get through this, I should just be able to get over this. But you haven’t addressed the conflict that got swept under the rug, that’s this current underneath all your interactions, it’s going to be there until you clean up that pile of garbage, till you pull back the rug and you clean up underneath it, it’s going to be there.

Tina Gosney  08:44

You don’t have to clean up under the rug. Some people are perfectly happy to leave it under the rug and to be tripping over it and not address it. You know what that is totally a choice is a choice that a lot of people make. This is what happens if you do that. You’re going to keep the relationship shallow. It might be a mile wide, but it’s an inch deep. Families live like this all the time. They can live in the same house for decades in the same town, maybe on the same street, even after you know they leave home. They can live so in such close proximity to each other for years and years and years without ever really knowing each other. Because they’re not willing to talk about difficult things. They’re not willing to dive in to difficult topics. Now there is nothing wrong with this. I want to re emphasize this. There is nothing wrong with this if this is the relationship you want. But if you want something more, if you want to go deeper.

Tina Gosney  09:49

I want you to keep listening to this podcast episode because it requires some difficult conversations. Even if those aren’t involving conflict, even if it’s just diving into sensitive Have more personal topics, this is helpful for you. But in order to learn how to have difficult conversations, we actually have to have difficult conversations until we’re willing to start going through the process. And basically, we pretty much stink at it from the beginning, we make a lot of mistakes. But basically, until we’re willing to have those conversations, we’re going to stay right where we are at that level of development.

Tina Gosney  10:33

And one thing that we as humans all have in common, it’s just inherent in who we are in being human, is that we want to grow and develop. But growth and development can be a painful process. And we are afraid of it, we’re afraid of going into that thing that scares us, because we don’t know how to do it, or it hasn’t turned out well in the past. So we keep ourselves stuck in this no growth zone we stay, we stay in our comfort zone, we put our fears in the driver’s seat of our lives.

Tina Gosney  11:08

If this is you, and you want to have a difficult conversation, and you want to dive deeper, and get to know the people that you love, more deeply and intimately, that I want you to give yourself some grace. It is not a weakness.

Tina Gosney  11:25

If you were never taught how to talk about difficult things, if your family that you grew up in, was conflict avoidant. And you were told, anytime you had an emotion, you were told that you were wrong. And maybe you were sent to your room and said, don’t come out until you can get over it. You actually never learned how to work through difficult things, and how to manage your emotions around other people, and how to manage yourself through a difficult conversation. Because you weren’t given that opportunity. You didn’t have that learning environment in your home.

Tina Gosney  12:03

If you grew up in a home that was explosive, maybe verbally or emotionally explosive, and you just let loose on each other. Then you learned how to verbally vomit whatever was in your head. And that it was okay to do that. You still didn’t learn how to manage your emotions and how to contain yourself saying whatever comes to your mind expressing your thoughts and feelings, just letting them spill out just because you have them is not processing emotions. It is a losing strategy called unbridled self expression. And actually did another podcast episode on this, I believe it was in February or March of this year.

Tina Gosney  12:52

Maybe you will learn how to talk about different difficult things by not talking about them, but writing about them. And that’s a good start, you know, writing down what you’re thinking and feeling and then delivering a letter or a note, that is a good beginning because at least you’re getting those things out and not, you know, in an explosive way or a shutting down way. And maybe you’re one of those people that organizes their thoughts. And better in a letter and you just express yourself better through writing than you do speaking, it’s so normal for a lot of people. But I want you to think of if you just deliver a letter and you never follow up with it, you deliver your letter, and you don’t invite feedback, or have a follow up conversation.

Tina Gosney  13:43

That would be like calling someone up on the phone. As soon as they say hello, you speak at them for five minutes straight. And then you hang up before they can say anything. It’s not actually having a conversation. Because you haven’t invited any feedback. You don’t know what they’re thinking you don’t know how if they’ve received what you have to say in the way that you meant and you wanted them to receive it, you have no idea because you didn’t invite any feedback. So delivering your unchallenged thoughts and feelings is not the same as having a difficult conversation.

Tina Gosney  14:18

So let’s start taking this to the next step. You can deliver a letter, that’s awesome. But let’s have a conversation afterwards. If you’re not willing to do that, I want to tell you that you’re avoiding being challenged. There’s something about you that doesn’t want to see what the other person sees. And maybe your goal is to not be challenged. And if that is the goal, then you have achieved, he’ll have achieved it. You don’t have to welcome the challenge.

Tina Gosney  14:48

But what is it costing you if you’re not taking the next step then and having a follow up conversation where you are trying to create emotional, psychological safety for you, and for the other person, this is what it’s costing you a deeper, more meaningful relationship with that person. They might feel talked at or dumped on, depending on what that letter said. But you won’t know that because you weren’t inviting feedback, you weren’t having that follow up conversation.

Tina Gosney  15:22

So if you want a more deep, meaningful relationship, you’re gonna have to open yourself up to some uncomfortable situation, there was a time in my life years ago, that this is exactly what I did. When I needed to tell my kids something. And I just, you know, I was the parent, they were the child, I knew better than they did. And I would write a letter, and I would give it to them. And just assume that it was taken in the way that I wanted it to be taken, or that, that I, in my mind, I imagined that they took it. And, and then I didn’t invite any feedback or have a follow up conversation. That was not helpful. It was all through the I’m the parent, you’re the child. And I know better mindset.

Tina Gosney  16:14

Well, you know, the fact is that I did have more life experience, I had a couple more decades, two or three more decades on the earth, and life experience than my children did. And I had been through a lot of things that they had been through. But it did keep me from really knowing them, knowing what their life experience was. And maybe I was just assuming that I, because I had been through something similar, that that’s how their experience was, but often it wasn’t, they had a different point of view, they had a different thoughts, different experience, maybe in a very similar situation that I had been through, I had a different experience than I did, and were struggling with different things. But I didn’t know that because I didn’t follow up.

Tina Gosney  16:59

So if you’re going to write that letter, that deserves some further consideration about why you’re doing that, and what your ulterior motive is, if this is you give yourself some grace, I have so much compassion for that past version of myself, that would do that, at times, she was doing the best that she knew how it wasn’t always very effective, but she didn’t know how to do anything else. And maybe that’s where you are, I want you to give yourself some grace. Because if this strategy has worked for you, you think that it works for you. And your brain makes sense. Like, oh, yeah, this works. If that has happened in the past, then it makes sense that you would still be using it. But this podcast is here to help you if you want to move beyond writing that letter, take the next step and move beyond the letter.

Tina Gosney  17:50

When we are having difficult conversations, we need to learn how to manage our emotions. So when we are getting ready to have a difficult conversation, we need to practice emotional management skills ahead of time. And I’ll give you several ways to do this in the guide. And don’t worry, it’s not going to take like hours out of your day, or even like a half an hour out of your day. These are things that you can do in two to five minutes. And you can incorporate in to you what you’re already doing. So it is not something that you have to like set apart a whole bunch of time to do.

Tina Gosney  18:28

But I want you to think about emotional management skills, just like building muscles at the gym. It takes repeated practice over time. If you’re just going to the gym once a day for a couple of weeks, and then you’re like, okay, I’m good. I don’t have to do this anymore. You’re gonna lose it, right? You have to use that muscle or you lose the muscle. The same thing happens for when we start practicing emotional management skills. So if you’re thinking, Well, I can just practice these things for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll be fine to have this conversation. Well, you’re going to have more benefit from it for sure. But if you don’t continue on with the practice, and this is like a daily thing, then you’re going to lose that skill. And the next time you need it, it won’t be in place. Just like if you stop working out at the gym. The next time you need a muscle and you don’t have it in place you it’s just not there. You can’t just snap your fingers and make it up here.

Tina Gosney  19:29

This is a long term skill, not a short term skill. Emotional management is not something you can practice short term and then just have that skill for the rest of your life. I want you to think of this just as basic as brushing your teeth every day. Taking a shower, washing your body every day. Taking care of your emotional needs and knowing how to calm your body down is just as basic as brushing your teeth. It’s just as basic as that For your emotional health, there’s something called sympathetic resonance. And this is what usually will take over your emotions. In a conversation, we’ve already addressed the nervous system reaction there is that there’s also this, okay?

Tina Gosney  20:17

 So just picture this, the other person, you’re having this conversation, the other person gets angry, what happens to you, you probably get angry too, you probably match their anger, emotions are energy expressed. There’s a lot of energy, and an emotion like anger. And our nervous systems want to sync up with the people that we are close to and around that we are next to when the other person gets angry, how likely are you to not have that affect you, not very likely, your nervous system is going to match the energy that other person’s nervous system.

Tina Gosney  20:56

So unless you know how to manage yourself, you’re gonna let that happen. This is called sympathetic resonance. It’s something that we see happen all the time in nature, I found a really cool video on YouTube that shows this in metronomes. Do you know what a metronome is? It’s a device that musicians use to help them keep a steady beat. It’s an electronic device. And that electronic device has different numbers. And according to the number, that’s how many times that metronome will beat every minute. So if we put it on a 60, we set the metronome at 60, it would be 60 times per minute. So basically, one time per second. Okay, so this YouTube video, I forget exactly how many metronomes that they set, but it is at least a couple of dozen.

Tina Gosney  21:50

And this is the type of metronome that has the arm that waves back and forth. And once you see it, if you click on this video, once you see it, you’re probably going to go Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that before. And they set all these metronomes to the same number, but they started them all at different times. Okay, so I want you to think of metronomes, all beating at different times. Well, what’s amazing about this video is that within just a few minutes, all the metronomes sync up with each other. This is an electronic device, all the metronomes sync up with each other, and not just in the beats that they’re clicking, but in the way their arms are beating to their arms are all beating together, it’s actually pretty amazing.

Tina Gosney  22:40

But this is actually what we do as humans, we match the emotions, we match the energy of the person that we’re with, or we try to get them to match our energy. If we don’t match up emotions, then one of us is going to find it unbearable to be there. Or maybe both of us and we’re just going to separate both of us will leave. Think of the last time you were just really angry or sad about something and somebody around you was super happy. And like celebrating, that probably, that’s a really big mismatch. And it feels so uncomfortable to be around, you’re like, I just can’t be around you right now and you separate. That’s exactly what’s happening here. If we’re not matching emotional energy around the people that we’re with, then we will just separate.

Tina Gosney  23:33

So if you want to be the person that holds the emotional ground, the one that sets the emotional tone, and energy for this conversation, then you need to learn to manage your own emotions. And when you learn how to do this, you actually help the other person to sync up to you. Imagine if you were able to hold some emotion like peace or compassion, or kindness, and the other person started getting a little amped up. And you bet you held on to peace or kindness or compassion that would invite them to match your energy.

Tina Gosney  24:13

It’s not an easy thing to do. It requires a discipline in emotional management. But I tell you, it is totally possible. To do this, we need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Tina Gosney  24:30

We have a lizard brain I already told you about our higher brain but we also have a lizard brain. This is a very primitive brain. And that brain is concerned with our safety and survival. It thinks that if we do difficult things and we are uncomfortable that we’re going to die and we need to stop, it’s going to it’s gets really loud sometimes we will go to great lengths to not do hard things because that lizard brain tells us we’re gonna die. We tell our kids we tell you know young kids all the time. They can, you can do hard things. I mean, that’s pretty much become a pretty commonly repeated phrase: you can do hard things, we can do hard things.

Tina Gosney  25:09

But as adults, we forget to apply that same principle to ourselves. We think since we’re not kids anymore, and we’re not doing hard things all the time, we forget that we actually can do hard things. And we don’t challenge ourselves to grow emotionally or physically or mentally, socially, especially relationally. We can’t do that without doing hard things. hard things require a certain amount of being uncomfortable. We need to learn how to embrace that discomfort. For the sake of our own growth.

Tina Gosney  25:45

There’s a couple of common things that I hear people say and tell me when we’re talking, and coaching about having difficult conversations. And one of those things is, it’s gone really bad in the past, when I’ve tried to have a conversation. And I’m just really afraid to do it again. That is completely understandable. Our brains will take our past experiences, and apply them to our present situation, and then try to project what will happen in the future. So it would make total sense, if in your past, you’ve tried to have a conversation, it did not go well. That you’re wary of trying again. And you don’t have to try again, it’s totally up to you.

Tina Gosney  26:27

But I’m wondering if you tried a different approach to the conversation, if you might get a better outcome. I can’t say for sure that you will. But it’s a possibility. There are unknown factors here because we don’t get to control the other person. But the factor that you can’t control is yourself, what if when you show up differently, you plug in to that equation, you being different, and showing up different in the conversation, you might just get a different outcome.

Tina Gosney  26:58

Another thing that I hear I hear quite often is, well, that other person is way better at speaking and expressing themselves than I am. And they just tend to run right over me. And then I just feel so small. Yeah, that happens. It happens, especially if you are not practiced at having difficult conversations. And this is why we prepare, we practice. And then we give up the need to control that that conversation going in a certain direction.

Tina Gosney  27:31

I want you to think about why you’re having that conversation if that in the first place. If you’re having it to get what you want, get something that you want. Or maybe you’re trying to get the other person to change their mind about something, you might be really disappointed. When you’re trying to control the outcome of a conversation, you we will tend to get manipulative, and try to control inside that conversation. It’s almost like we’re playing a game of tug of war.

Tina Gosney  28:01

What if we just dropped the rope? What if we did not engage in the tug of war, and we let go of the need for that conversation to have the outcome that we were hoping for? There are different reasons that we might, that each of us might have to have a conversation in the first place. Like when one of the reasons might be sharing what we’re thinking or feeling with someone or asking them to do something for us. Or maybe we just want to express some concern for someone. You’ll want to know what your purposes and having the conversation and how you measure success.

Tina Gosney  28:41

When you’re in the position of feeling like you have been run over and shut down. In previous conversations, success for you might look like, Well, I was able to say the things that I wanted to say. And I really tried to listen without getting into my own head. That could be a total total successful outcome. Another successful outcome might be while I didn’t get upset and leave the room, I stayed there in the conversation the whole time. Again, totally a successful outcome if that’s what your goal, you get to measure what success looks like for you. But it should always be based on something that you have control of, not on how the other person reacts and how they respond. And a certain outcome that you don’t have control of. You don’t have control over any of those things.

Tina Gosney  29:36

Here’s some takeaways for today. You don’t have to have confidence to have a conversation. You will gain confidence by having the conversation. It is a skill that you get better at consistently practiced over time. Every time you stay in a conversation that you feel uncomfortable in and you will have to really listen and get out of your own head and your own thoughts. And you pay attention to what your body is doing. And you use your emotional management skills to calm yourself down. Every time you do that you are growing bit by bit.

Tina Gosney  30:15

Every time you do that you’re expanding your ability to do hard things, and to be emotionally mature. This is just one of the steps to developing differentiation. I have talked a lot about differentiation lately. And I’m going to continue talking about it because I think it is a valuable, valuable skill. This is the ability to hold on to yourself and who you want to be while you stay in connection with another person, especially when it’s difficult, and especially when you aren’t getting what you want.

Tina Gosney  30:51

That’s it’s such a huge, valuable skill that most people don’t even know is available to them. They don’t know that they’re struggling with it until we start talking about it. If you’re wanting to know what to focus on to help yourself feel better, to feel more confident, more connected in your relationships. Differentiation is the place to focus. It’s a powerful skill, but you develop it over time as you keep showing up and doing hard things, just like having a difficult conversation. Here’s a reminder, there’s a guide.

Tina Gosney  31:24

If this episode is has resonated with you, there’s a guide that you can access through a link in the shownotes one of those guides addresses a hard conversation with your husband. The other one addresses a difficult conversation with your adult child pick which one is most applicable to you. And I’m so excited to have you download this because I know how valuable it is. Have a great week and I will see you next time.

Tina Gosney  31:56

Hey, if you are finding value here on this podcast, please consider hopping on to Apple podcasts or Spotify and leave a rating maybe even a review your ratings and reviews help other people to find this podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this and for your support.