The Best Time To Talk Is Now.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Whenever I begin the process of coaching parents, a mum, or a dad, or a family, they almost always say something like this after the first meeting ‘I/we should have started this conversation years ago. I/we have known ‘this’ was a problem for a long time and suppose I/we somehow believed that it would simply go away or get better on its own if I/we ignored it.’
The “this” they are referring to is whatever issue it is that has brought them to see me. Bedtime or sleep issues, an anxious or angry teenager, a child who finds it hard to make friends or struggles with eye contact or concentrating.
The ‘this’ of course varies, but it always reminds me of the saying ‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second-best time is today.’
It also seems to be true that the best time for any of us to have begun a difficult conversation or addressed a problem, worry or niggle that won’t go away, was several months or several years ago, at the moment when we first became aware of a difficulty that needed to be faced and discussed. The second-best time to begin that difficult conversation is today.
We all put our head in the sand at times – it’s easier than facing our fears, worries or concerns. None of us wants to fuss, or rock the boat or face a difficult truth.
We don’t always like or want to embrace change.
The trouble is, the desire of not wanting to rock the boat, is the fact that it is almost always said at a time when, in fact, the boat is clearly already rocking and is in danger of capsizing.
No matter what excuse we may find ourselves using to avoid difficult conversations, the results are usually the same. The original concern or problem has escalated and the conversation we need to have becomes even more difficult until it turns into a crisis.
Why do we avoid difficult conversations?
There are many reasons, but I believe one primary reason is that there is great vulnerability in having these conversations. Lots of people talk to me about their worries but say to me ‘but I don’t need what you do’ as if coaching is something only weak or troubled people do.
They muddle up coaching with counselling, or with therapy particularly here in the UK.
I wrote an article called ‘Parent Coaching might be for you – or it might be a waste of time and money. Here’s how to decide.’ To explain the difference.
You can read it here:
Important change requires significant risk and vulnerability from everyone involved. When we are willing to have difficult conversations and talk to each other bridges instead of walls appear and real long-term change happens.
I always say ‘Change happens quickly when you work with me – but habits take a little longer!’
The word ‘conversion’ comes from the same root as the word ‘conversation’ which I think is a great reminder that authentic, deep conversations have the capacity to change lives.
Is there a conversation that you want to start right now, but perhaps are finding it difficult to do so?
Maybe you wished you had started this conversation two months or two years ago. Maybe the pandemic has exacerbated or brought something to the surface that you had thought was long hidden, buried or suppressed.
You can’t change the past, and there’s no point driving forward looking in the rear view mirror, and there is no point in beating yourself up about why you didn’t start the conversation sooner. Instead, remember that you can change the present and the future by beginning that conversation today.
The best time to start a difficult conversation is when the need first arises. The second-best time is today.
Email me at Sue@thesueatkins.com or call me on 01883 818329