Do you ever find yourself having conversations in your head? You know the ones I’m talking about. Mine usually begin after a frustrating real-life conversation or interaction. Though sometimes they happen after I have read something online. (Those comments tho!)
The gist of the conversation revolves around me explaining why I am right and “they” are not. Maybe I am defending a side. Maybe I am trying to explain to this person why they are so irritatingly wrong or just plain dumb. Maybe I am sharing how they have hurt or wronged me. Whatever the reason and whatever the basis for the ‘conversation’ it ties me up in knots while my mind swirls and becomes increasingly frustrated, irritated, and anxious.
But here’s the thing. There is no actual conversation happening so there is no closure. There is no end point. I am just building something up (quite likely) bigger than it needs to be.
I have a few options at this point.
A: Proceed to do nothing. Continue to dialogue in my head until it eventually boils out to the surface in person. (This is not recommended as the conversation is typically overly emotional and doesn’t end well)
B: Tell myself: Stop having this pretend conversation. Put it to rest and move on. Which is essentially ignoring it. This is also not recommended as it is merely sweeping the conflict under the rug so to speak. It will almost certainly come up again at some point in the future as it hasn’t actually been resolved.
or – option C: My favourite and the most difficult by far: Have the crucial conversation. Now I don’t mean pick up the phone and tell this person all that you have been thinking (ie playing out the terrible “head” conversation in person) but make a plan to have an intentional discussion.
I find this works best by first pausing to examine my own heart. Why I am so bothered in the first place? What specifically am I upset about? Is it maybe an issue of my heart rather than an issue with this person?
I recently had a “head conversation” come up. I was agitated. My first instinct after brewing on this conversation was to either call or text another friend. I needed support for my side. But instead I paused. I didn’t want to gossip. Even if I kept the names and details out of the story I knew that wouldn’t really solve anything. It was more of a quick fix to let me vent and feel temporarily better. Also if I slipped and said anything more than necessary I would actually feel worse for slandering and gossiping about someone.
So I tried a new tactic. I prayed, and asked God to examine my heart. Maybe He could help me figure out why I so bothered by this person. I find God is incredibly faithful when we ask him to search our hearts. He has often highlighted to me moments in my past where I have hurt someone else or unknowingly mis-stepped.
Through this prayer time He revealed a hurt I had experienced in the past from this person, though looking back I am sure it was unintentional. I had placed expectations on our friendship that this person couldn’t fulfill and I felt let down and hurt by her. It altered the perception of my relationship with her and shaped how I believed she viewed me.
I allowed this assumed rejection to become a wound. By not dealing with what was happening below the surface I allowed it to grow every time I felt a slight disappointment from her.
I needed to address it. I need to deal with the untruth in it. When hurt and wounds are allowed to linger in our head and our heart they begin to fester and grow.
So I took the difficult step and choose door #3. I called her up, met for coffee and had the crucial conversation. I am by no means an expert in “crucial conversations” but I have had my fair share. Not because I enjoy the painful anticipation of the unknown, or the awkward pauses and difficult words. But because having them has always ended well. Having them has always resolved whatever real or perceived conflict was in place. And when done well, both parties leave more connected, understood and peaceful.
The other thing that happens through a crucial conversation is that the conversations in my head disappear. I no longer need to play out these imaginary discussions because I have had the real one, face to face.