Tackling Unpleasant Conversations: The Band-Aid Method

Earlier this week, I had a tricky conversation with a family member. I talk to my family regularly, but this particular conversation related to money, which is always an interesting subject. I found out about a misunderstanding, of which I was completely unaware, by an uninvolved third party. Already, it felt awkward and gossipy. The news threw me off-guard, and I reacted strongly. One thing was certain: I needed to face the situation head-on to avoid further miscommunication or he-said she-said.

Feeling guilty, I questioned my previous words and actions. How did this mix-up happen? The issue couldn’t be avoided. Delaying the conversation would only make it worse, so I vowed to make the call the next day. Feeling anxious, I went for it. I dialed the number before I could think twice. Less than 10 minutes later, all was out in the open and we could move forward with a plan rather than hard feelings. After the conversation I reflected on what went well. Below are a few takeaways that might help with future, less pleasant, conversations.

When dealing with uncomfortable situations:

  1. Don’t avoid the problem. It’s not going away, and you’ll only cause unnecessary anxiety and worry by pushing off confrontation.
  2. Go to the source. Rather than wonder, guess, speculate, or debate, just ask. Talk to the person directly.
  3. Act quickly. Putting off difficult conversations means more build up and longer periods of unsettled feelings. Have the conversation; emotions will only fester if you wait.
  4. Start problem solving. Rather than act passively with uncertainty, take control once feelings are in the open and move forward.
  5. Focus on the positive. Tough conversations are never fun, but they can lead to positive relationship building. Connecting with another person, facing a challenge together, being honest and communicating openly – all of these are great takeaways from an otherwise unpleasant interaction.

Rip off the band-aid (figuratively). Make the call. Say your piece. Smile – you can now move on with your life.

A Foolproof Method for Answering Tough Questions

Over the past few months, I’ve said “yes” more than usual. I love a great adventure, but I’m also a proud home body. My idea of a perfect Friday night is more often than not staying in with friends and family. It’s easy to be safe and choose the obvious, more routine, route. But that hasn’t served me much lately.

When visiting Europe, I had a three days on my own. I’d never traveled solo internationally before, so I was anxious. My best friend told me I’d really love Prague, and I should see it. I had a free day, but Prague was a five hour bus ride each way, and I’d only be in the city a few hours. Sitting on my bed alone in a Munich hotel, my logical brain was weighing the pros and cons. It’s supposedly beautiful. Lots of history. A long, but easy, bus ride. I’d have to leave before sunrise tomorrow. Ten hours on a bus in one day?! By myself? And then, “how could I not?” I bought the ticket.

A few years ago, I invested in a racing bike. I’ve ridden it some, but biking in Chicago gets busy and intimidating. I hadn’t ridden my bike all summer, until today. It’s a gorgeous day in the city, and my rest day from running. The Chicago lakefront is not something to waste as it gets colder outside. So I headed out and hit the lakefront path, where I sit writing this, next to my bike.

An amazing tool I’ve learned for life’s questions – both minor and major – is to understand the alternative. Had I stayed in Munich, so close to Prague, I would have regretted not taking the (relatively) short journey. I was cozy on the couch this morning, but the temperate days in Chicago are quickly disappearing. Considering how I’d feel if my bike sat rusting all year got me up in minutes.

Try it – ask yourself about the alternative.

  • Where am I in a year if I stay in the job I hate?
  • If I spend hours a day on social media, does that lead me to a life I love?
  • How can I not take a new, exciting opportunity, despite being happy with my current situation?

Answering questions backwards sheds more light than “am I better off just staying put?” One of the most telling answers for me as of late comes from that question: what is the alternative? What happens if I say no? Where does failure to act get me?

If you don’t use this method to get you answers, I highly encourage testing it for yourself. It’s pretty incredible, and usually clear, how easy the answer makes a decision.

Dive in.

Sometimes, you just need to start writing. I’ve considered starting a blog for over a year and always found a reason to put it off. The direction was unclear, people wouldn’t read what I have to say… and the list goes on. I was scared and unwilling to act, which held me back. I’m not entirely sure why that changed today, but it did, and for now I’m thankful.

Few events have taught me more about myself, or led to more personal growth moments, than traveling. I recently returned from a long trip in Europe, which may have pushed me to finally go for it. When you take a month off, away from responsibility, emails, meetings – there’s a lot of free time and free space in your brain to think about what matters. Which led me to consider: I need more of what I want. Nothing is more important than time and how it’s spent, so I want to be more careful with such a valuable resource. What better day than today to make a move and share something positive?

Over the past few months, I’ve been inspired by lots of influencers who I consider role models. People who share how they take risks, show vulnerability, and aren’t afraid to be themselves. When you seek out those messages and surround yourself with positivity on a daily basis, it becomes easier and easier to see what’s good in the world. The petty stuff does not matter. Will someone dislike my writing? Yes. Is that important? Not really. I like to write. It’s fun, and it makes me happy. At work I jump at any opportunity to be part of writing projects. Is my time better spent scrolling through Instagram, rather than trying something new that pushes my boundaries? I don’t think so.

This blog will likely change overtime. For now, I’m hoping to challenge myself to spend my time in a meaningful way on something I love, which is writing. Spending it wisely reminds me there’s only so much time to keep moving forward, push the boundaries, welcome the new, and do it with a smile.