How avoiding conflict can cause more conflict
I am a Cis straight, conservative, Evangelical woman turned authentically gay, liberal and spiritual after coming to a crossroads in my life that I could not unsee. Our daughter, who is the bravest woman I’ve ever seen, was never afraid to have hard conversations with her now-MAGA, estranged father (my ex) regarding humanity and social injustice, which always ended up with him belittling her and laughing in her face. Of course, that never ended well because, for Whitney, social injustice is what she will fight against to her death. It’s in her DNA. But here is the thing....she planted so many seeds in my heart. She helped me see life so much more clearly. Those seeds finally took root and I felt my eyes were opened to the heart of the world.
Let me tell you... hardest transition ever to be my authentic self. To have my eyes opened has been the most painful but REWARDING journey but has come at the cost of my homophobic brother who disowned me. My mother is deeply ashamed of me. (She told me I USED to have a wonderful reputation, but not anymore...) BUT... I have the Love of My Life (happens to be a woman), I fight for social justice, learn more every day and have fulfilled several of my lifelong dreams with her and Whitney’s help and most of all, I have learned in my late 50’s to finally stand up for myself and how to have hard conversations. I have a SERIOUS aversion to conflict. I think because in childhood it always lead to yelling and hatefulness and sarcasm. I didn’t see having hard conversations modeled for me.
So keep going. Be brave. You can learn and grow and change beautifully. Don’t stop having hard convos because hard convos lead to change. In you, in the world and in others. Seeds are planted. Hearts are changed. And the world becomes better. You can do it. 💗.
I always find that it’s helpful to ask questions instead of driving home my point when someone has an opposing view. Not only are you learning more about where they are coming from, if you ask the right ones they hear their own ignorance or blind spots and usually realise they are not as informed as they first thought!
I'm applying for a job that will take me into a workplace that will require me to help a community work through some differences in understanding of racism. The people are almost exclusively white people and there's a small group (20 out of almost 400) who believe that anti-racist work and critical race theory are in themselves racist against white people. that is, the understanding that we live in a culture shaped by white supremacy culture is equivalent to calling every white person a racist, and these folks believe that's not true.
If I get the job, the thing that will be hardest for me is that their disagreement causes harm to the BIPOC folks in the community and outside of it. Robert Jones, Jr. has said "We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist."
There are some disagreements that are near impossible to overcome by building relationship.
I love this quote, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist,” wrote Robert Jones Jr, aka Son of Baldwin. I want to memorize this quote when I have difficult conversations. I had a recent difficult conversation with a woman who was angry at people who take advantage of the system who are on welfare or disability. She thinks they lie or use anxiety as a disability. and I was able to tell her in a calm way that if you aren’t having depression or anxiety in this world than you are not paying attention and why not have every human be supported with money coming from the government. You are born, you have a right to meeting your basic needs. Since I was calm and caring she was able to see my point. I definitely need more practice in being calm when there are difficult conversations.
I do feel pain when talking to my daughter-in-law sometimes. It's much better now, I think. I told her I was afraid of her and when challenged usually ran away or dropped it. This time, I told her, "I want to be brave and try again to tell you how I feel." I love her. She loves me. We can do this. Leaning in takes bravery.
This is a great topic and very important to me as well. I believe in liberal democracy and I miss the days when it was ok to have friends with different or even opposing views to your own. In fact, it was considered a strength. Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke about this in My Own Words. The unfortunate thing about the current time is that there is hateful rhetoric out there about people who might have opposing views to you/ us. We are sometimes pushed to dehumanize the other. Instead of engaging with someone's point of view, we create caricatures of them and dismiss them wholly. Unfortunately, I truly think there are agents of disinformation engaged in creating that type of rhetoric/ disinformation in social media and in society at large. It is meant to look like hate is growing amongst us organically, but it is likely being sown deliberately. United we stand, divided we will all surely fall.
Unfortunately, I have had to face this reality in my personal life. People who I love and am very close to have very different concepts of politics than I do. But because of the disinformation that we are awash with, every conversation that I try to have about such things ends up feeling like I am serving myself poison because there is no common acceptance of any principles upon which such conversations could be guided. Examples of principles I am looking for agreement on would be equality, caring, justice, respect, for example. I have had to create a boundary not to talk politics with people in my life whose current points of view are not grounded in these principles because it is very hard to change a mind that does not wish to be changed and I am saving my focus and energy for the better moment/opportunity that I believe will come in time.
Forgive me for sharing this difficult (but funny) conversation which didn't quite work out the way I had hoped. When my mother was dying, I curled up behind her on her bed and asked her to please forgive me for anything/everything I did that hurt her. "Ok," she whispered. After a few moments of silence, I added, "And I forgive you for anything I felt you did that hurt me."
Without missing a beat, she whipped her head towards me and questioned, "Like what?!" I almost laughed out loud, except she wasn't kidding. And she is why I have always tried to stay away from hard conversations.
I love that James Baldwin quote, thanks for sharing it. It is such a touchstone for me about when I need to set a boundary around disagreement.
This showed up at exactly the right time. Thank you.
we're having harmful conversations about LGBTQ inclusion at my work right now, and as I work to support and lead the folks around me, I am grateful for this framing.
Andrea, you’re one of the wisest people I know! Thank you for always putting your words out there for us to soak in and be nourished by. I’ve always identified as a liberal but lately I’ve had the same concern as the one you mentioned; “Believe what I believe or be cast from the liberal garden. The expectation to conform or ‘fall in line’ is militaristic in nature.” I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one worried about this trend. And it’s hard to speak out about it for fear of being rejected by the tribe. I’ve also started to explore the idea that life is lived in the optimal suspension between mutually regulating opposites and how that applies to conservative and liberal values.
Hello Andrea and everyone,
This is my first time posting here. Although I am a graduate(?) of Write Your Heart In and Poems That Don’t Suck and I’m guessing there might be some crossover in the community!
Unfortunately I am not writing with any answers but because this really resonated with me. I struggle so much with being open and vulnerable and with believing that other people come to these conversations with the best intentions. But I’m increasingly feeling that this unwillingness is stunting my growth and holding me back from being the person I’d like to be. I don’t want to be constantly fearing the worst of people and I feel like it exposes the limits of my own tolerance in ways which makes me quite uncomfortable. So I know it’s something I need to grabble with.
One particular conversation I avoid (as a queer person) is talking to people of faith about queerness. I’ll caveat this by saying that I know that there are many queer people of faith and I understand intellectually that these things shouldn’t be in conflict but bad past experiences with organised religion make me so scared to even discuss it.
Maybe I should target a conversation initially where I don’t feel like I have so much personally at stake but in my line of work I feel that there may be value in being able to have a version of this conversation if I can find a way to do it safely. (I work for a children’s charity in the UK and I know that representation and the ability to express different aspects of identity including gender, sexuality and faith can all shape children’s wellbeing but too often they seem to get pitted against each other. I am very curious about other people’s experiences with this or any other conversations.
On the subject of Covid, I’d be really interested to hear that conversation between a mother and daughter. It made me think of the Serial miniseries We Were Three which goes pretty deep around this and definitely challenged my thinking and opened my heart. A big trigger warning around loss, bereavement and discussion of abuse for anyone delving into that though. x
The last month of 2022 was riddled with difficult conversations with family, friends and coworkers. It it exhausting, but in each case I came to the conclusion that having the conversation, even it it didn't go well was better than not having it at all. With a lot of mental preparation, considerate timing and coming from a place of wanting to improve or maintain the relationship, I was able to come out of each conversation feeling like I'd made progress. Some conversations happen just once, some are the first step in an ongoing dialogue. I'm grateful that my mom taught me how to address emotions head on early and not to be afraid of potential conflict, even if that meant we had to have some hard conversations about how the mania side of her disorder was impacting our relationship. I learned that despite knowing she was bipolar my whole life, I knew embarrassingly little about how mania works. My husband grew up in an environment that completely avoided conflict, even if it eventually caused worse effects than confronting it. I am trying to show him that clear communication is always better, even if it is harder in the short term. I always enjoy your writing, thank you for sharing!
My parents live in Florida and love Trump and Desantis....My guest room at their house when I stay is covered in trump posters and Knick knacks,bobble heads. My stepdad asked why I’ve changed to be able to be around them, post trump era. I said I’ve changed, my heart has opened to you regardless of your beliefs. I love you and want to be around you, that’s what changed is I realized I love you more than this stuff in the way. All this after five years of no contact and ten years of strained relationships.
I’m writing a book about my childhood filled with rebel flags, guns and whiskey! How I got out and where I am now. Yes my mom has the bumper stickers that say trump 2024 and her water bottle says,”still a trump girl”. I do have to lay in my bed when I visit and seriously laugh my ass off too at the whole thing, these parents I chose ❤️😂
Explaining differently helps me and sometimes the other human. A person who felt the best response to Black Lives Matter was "I believe all lives matter" the response I used "I agree they do, it's really more like this... All forests matter but the Rain Forest needs specific attention, recognition - can you see that? feel that? It was an entirely different conversation that helped us both have a great dialogue
Absolutely love everything you wrote as it’s been something that has come up for me recently.
I’ve had multiple difficult conversations with my partner and I think what has made them positive in the end is that 1. 100% of the time there is something I am able to learn about myself, about my partner, about us and that information is extremely valuable and not taken lightly because it is where our growth takes place 2. I’ve found that if I speak in a way that what I am saying is able to be received and if I am given information in a way that I can also receive it, then WOW, game changer. Even if we have differing opinions, being able to understand the basis of each of our thoughts enables us to show up as a supportive partner even if we don’t change each other’s minds
Now where I have work to do (I admittedly go back and forth on if this is work I want to do) is with people who are not my partner. If someone crosses a boundary or I am having a difficult conversation with whoever, I’m quick to shut people down if I feel disrespected or if I know I’m not going to be met with openness, which in turn makes me not every open myself. I have a problem with feeling like if somebody crosses a boundary or says something completely insane then I automatically internally go “I can’t be safe with this person, they are not high on my inner circle value list so why would I expose myself verbally to someone who will not be able to show up to this conversation in a healthy way”
These are my thoughts for the day.