Sophia A. Nelson
“Texting is not talking. We have all disconnected from what truly matters in our relationships; the ability to talk face to face, to see one another’s hearts, to empathize, show respect, and to listen so that we may hear what is needed to make it all work out right.” (excerpt from speech, San Francisco, CA March 2013)
Of all the things we do as human beings that I think is among the most damaging, it’s that we are much too quick to walk out on, away from, or over some of the best people that life sends our way in a moment’s anger or offense.
It has become quite common to see couples divorce, friendships break apart, business relationships turn sour, and even siblings stop speaking to one another for years over the smallest of things. We just don’t want to do the necessary, and yes, hard work, of working through our “issues,” extending grace, asking for forgiveness, learning how to apologize effectively (see my last vlog “The Power of Apology” on this very issue for AlrightTV), being humble, and understanding that people are flawed (as are we) and that you can’t just love people when they are good, you have to love them when they make mistakes.
I call it the Dixie Cup culture. We drink our fill of people, and when we are done we crumble them up, discard them and walk away. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that it leaves us broken, unhealed, and empty. We may think that it is better to walk away than to deal with what is wrong in our relationships, but it is not. Psychologists and medical doctors alike will tell you that not talking out your problems, or learning how to manage your human relationships well, will only result in broken hearts, carrying around resentment and anger, which leads directly to physical illness, emotional stress and sometimes worse.
For me though, it’s much simpler than that. I have found that when I don’t take the time to have that “courageous conversation” or have that long overdue talk that it is me, not the person that I cast out who loses in the long run. Here’s the thing: The only way that we grow, learn, and evolve into better human beings is by facing ourselves and facing our problems so that we can fix them. Talking is one of the most soul-lifting, healing, and connecting things we can do with the people in our lives. Talking it out before you walk out allows you to see, feel, and touch another’s soul landscape. Even if you two or three ultimately decide that the relationship cannot be saved, at least you know that you had the conversation. You communicated. You cared enough to hear someone out and to be heard out by them. It really does matter how we exit our relationships. If we get into unhealthy patterns of throwing people away, or cutting them off without so much as a word, we damage ourselves. And we damage other people who were simply caught being human.
Here are some simple life lessons I try to live by when it comes to talking things out before I walk out.
1. Take a minute, a week, or whatever is needed to calm down, cool off, seek wise and experienced counsel, and then approach that valued person to have a face-to face-conversation, a Skype call if they don’t live nearby, or at the very least a phone call. Do not resolve your conflicts or concerns on text or email.
2. If you love someone, you have to let that be the first words you utter out of your mouth when you are preparing to address your “issues.” Affirm people you love. Do not attack them. And demand that same respect for yourself when it is your turn to go to the wood shed. People will listen to us a lot better when we speak to them from a place of compassion and grace than a place of condemnation and judgment.
3. If you two cannot talk it out alone, if the impasse has grown too wide, get some help. Again, look to trusted friends, clergy, or counselors who have BOTH of your best interests in mind and who want to see you both heal and move forward no matter the outcome of your conversation.
4. Talking and sharing is one of the most healthy, natural, spiritual endeavors we can undertake. It truly connects us to that other person. Face-to-face conversations are the most desirable because you can read body language, see their eyes, understand their hurt and vice versa.
5. Finally, writing a letter can be a great way to let someone know how you feel also. But write out a few drafts, run it by a few trusted friends, pray on it, sleep on it, then mail it. And allow that person to write back to you. Hopefully what results is a conversation, a connection, and a healing no matter what you decide to do with the relationship. It is important to finish things the right way.
Bottom line: Talk before you walk. People who can just walk away from you were never meant to be with you. Those who love us and those that we love are worth the fight. They are worth the work. They are worth the understanding and listening of our hearts. Communication is how we connect as human beings. Today make a decision to talk it out before you just walk out on someone who was put here to love you, care for you, celebrate you and to standby you throughout this journey called life.