The Conversation You’re Avoiding

The Conversation You're Avoiding

I love sleeping.  Or at least I used to.  Lately though, I’ve been waking up around midnight and laying there ruminating.  It’s a great word, isn’t it?  Like a cow that keeps chewing its cud over and over again, I lay there in the dark endlessly dissecting this thing that’s been bothering me.  I know, I know.  Not productive, but it’s like eating a bag of Cheetos.  I know it’s not good for me and I’ll regret it later, but I can’t stop. 

How about you?  What is it or, more likely, who is it that is causing your midnight ruminations?  Here’s a few I hear from my clients…the team member who isn’t pulling their weight; the manager who cuts you off in front of others; the co-worker who takes credit for your work.  Or just as likely, there is tension with a friend or family member. 

We don’t have the capacity to deal with this in the daylight, so we push it aside only to have it revisit us in the darkness. 

Recently a client shared his own midnight ruminations with me.  He was a rising star in the organization, but had just been passed over to lead a high-profile initiative.  The role went to a less-experienced colleague.  He was confused, angry and worried about his future at the organization.  By the time we talked, he had a full explanation of who was involved in the decision and why it happened.  None of it was good news and he was considering an exit plan.

I asked him, “What conversations have you had about this?”

He admitted that he hadn’t had an actual conversations, but that he had pieced it together from snippets of conversations and hearsay.

It didn’t surprise me.  Usually when I ask this question, I get something like…

  • “I don’t need to have a conversation. I already know what they’re going to say.”

  • “I know how they think. This is exactly like the time…”

  • “A few weeks ago, I mentioned…”

  • Or some sideways “We talked about it in passing”

Well, let me pop our bubble of delusion so you can deal with the reality of the situation.

The solution is simple, though it is not easy.

“Talk to them.”

I know. I know. You have your reasons why that isn’t a good idea.

  • Now isn’t the right time..

  • It’ll work itself out…

  • It really isn’t that big of a deal…

  • I don’t want to make them feel awkward or upset them…

  • Too much time has passed…

  • I’m not even sure what I would say…

What is it really that keeps us from having these conversations?

The soft underbelly of fear.

“What is it really that’s keeping us from having the conversations we need to be having? It’s the soft underbelly of fear.” 


What you hear might destroy the carefully constructed future. You might find out what people really think about you. The answer you get may not be the one you want.

  • Maybe you aren’t doing as well as you thought.

  • Maybe you’re a part of the problem.

  • Maybe you aren’t being chosen.

  • Maybe this is the end of something.

  • Maybe you won’t know what to do with what you heard.

  • Maybe the future you imagined for yourself isn’t in the cards.

  • Maybe they can’t give you what you want.

Without consciously knowing we’re doing it, we often choose to stay in a fabricated reality that allows us to avoid the real hurt, fear and disappointment that could come from directly facing the situation.

“Without consciously knowing we’re doing it, we often choose to stay in a fabricated reality that allows us to avoid the real hurt, fear and disappointment that could come from directly facing the situation.” 


Me? I had the conversation I needed to have. It didn’t feel better immediately. I was disappointed. But I also felt relief beneath it. I didn’t have to run through the myriad of stories, scenarios and explanations anymore. I could let go and only deal with a single truth.

A Zen sums it up perfectly. “If you understand – things are just as they are. If you do not understand – things are just as they are.”

Here’s to understanding,

Starla Sireno specializes in Executive Coaching in New York City. Starla is in the business of transforming executives into better leaders and better humans. Inquire how to work with Starla or her team.

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