The Power of Discussion: Why Difficult Talks Are Necessary
The impulse to avoid challenging conversations can be overwhelming. Some people stay away from difficult topics to cultivate a sense of ongoing positivity in their lives. Others do so for fear that their opinions might hurt or offend someone. And some people just don't like having their worldview challenged.
But difficult talks are necessary. It's essential to listen to challenging viewpoints and imperative to engage in challenging discussions.
First, let's define what's meant by "discussion." Whenever you engage in an exchange of ideas, whether you're a passive or active participant, it's a discussion. Partaking in a difficult conversation might mean watching the new Jada Pinkett Smith talk show that unsparingly discusses sociopolitical realities. It might mean confronting a loved one about their addiction to social media or having your own worldview on race challenged by someone.
Why is it necessary to engage in these talks, even when they make you uncomfortable? Let's take a look.
Confronting New Ideas Leads to Broader Acceptance and Knowledge
Every time a new concept or idea is brought to your attention, your brain files it in one of two ways: either it rejects the idea, or it incorporates the idea.
It's perfectly okay to reject some ideas - "the world is flat," for instance, can be dismissed comfortably. But if you routinely reject new ways of thinking, it might mean that you are actively narrowing your perspective. And if you avoid difficult new ideas entirely, you aren't even giving your brain a chance to grow.
Tackling Tough Topics Engenders Respect and Trust
When you engage with loved ones and acquaintances in a frank, honest and receptive manner, you develop mutual respect and trust. Especially if you are on the receiving end of a difficult conversation, then demonstrating that you can hear someone's side and respect their viewpoint will go a long way toward creating trust. If you simply slam the door at the first sign of disagreement, you lose the potential for mutual respect.
It Forms Stronger Relationships
If your conversations with others are always surface-level - "the weather's lovely" or "your habits don't bother me" - your connection will remain surface level as well. It's okay to have conflicting opinions or to confront someone on their destructive behaviour. As long as you aren't directly antagonistic, a tough conversation can help you grow your relationships.
The Alternative Is Not "Blissful Ignorance"
You've heard this line of thinking before: if you avoid tense topics and unsettling conversations, you can live in blissful ignorance. They're right about the "ignorance" part - not so much the "bliss." When you avoid hard conversations, you end up internalizing your conflicts. It's better to be open and receptive to change than closed-off and feeling embattled.
Next time you feel like shying away from tough talks, ask yourself why you're doing so. If you simply need a break from the 24-hour news cycle's negativity, then, by all means, take a break. But if you are shielding yourself from criticism, unwilling to receive new ideas or afraid of conflict, consider making a change. Confront hard discussions head-on.