The Truth About Difficult Conversations & People Getting Emotional



We tend to avoid some conversations with people because we know they will be difficult. We have an idea of how it might go, how the person we are speaking to might respond and how they will feel. A large part of what makes us avoid these situations is because we don’t want to make others feel ‘bad’ and have them potentially explode, say or do something that will make us feel ‘bad’.

It may seem easier to have these conversations with people who we know will stay calm and not show much emotion. Time and time again we hear people concerned that someone might become ‘emotional’. That famous word that is so misunderstood. At our core, we are all emotional beings. Some just might hide their emotions, others might really know how to understand and navigate theirs and finally there are those that just explode. The latter is what we normally imagine when we say ‘emotional’.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes ‘emotional’ as relating to emotions, likely to show or express emotion : easily upset, excited, etc., showing emotion. So with this in mind, if we are hoping that people will not be emotional, are we hoping that they will control or hide their emotions or not have any at all?

Just to throw a question out there: Is the problem really that people have emotions and are showing them? Or is it that we don’t know how to respond to their emotions and that we do not feel comfortable with their expression of them?

Let's take someone who is crying because they are sad. We often tell them not to cry, not because it’s bad for them to cry, but because we ourselves feel uncomfortable with them crying. What we might not realize is that it is actually a real gift to someone if we allow them the space to express their emotions and if we are OK with that. When someone is feeling sad and is crying, one of the most helpful things we can do for them in that moment is to just let them cry and to be there for them.

So next time you worry about someone becoming ‘emotional’, pause for a second and remind yourself that if they do show some emotion, it’s just because they are human and that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable with that expression of emotions. If you can understand the emotions they are feeling or showing, tell them that and acknowledge them. That is infinitely more powerful and helpful to them than avoiding the difficult conversation all together.

In these moments, also remember to check in with how you are feeling. Don’t hesitate to share that with the person you are speaking to, even if you are just feeling afraid as to how the person will respond. It reminds them that you are human too.

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