Preparing for a difficult conversation

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Raffles
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Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

This is complicated to explain, so there will be a tldr at the end.

I recently wrote a personal narrative about an upsetting event that happened to me. The Upsetting Event was cause by two very well-meaning people who were looking out for me, however their actions caused some serious and long-lasting mental health problems for me.

In my personal narrative, I discuss the Upsetting Event, why it was upsetting, and how it can be avoided in the future. I reached out to the two people involved to ask their permission before publishing it because I believed (and still do) that it was the right thing to do. They both said yes but expressed interested in reading through it before the public does. I plan to honor that request, but I started with the easy one first (I’ll call her A).

A is a very level-headed person. She read through it and had a positive reaction. I offered to meet up with her, which she has expressed interest in. I want to do that, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to expect from this meet up. I’m worried about not being able to control my emotions and crying a lot or going into a panic attack or getting angry and being rude. On the flip side, I’m worried that she’ll start crying and I’ll feel like I’m the one that has to comfort her, even though she’s the one who hurt me.

The other person, B, is much more emotional and easy to freak out. I’ve been putting of sending her a draft because I’m worried about her reaction. I feel like she’ll completely freak out and start calling/texting me, and I don’t know how to set boundaries with her around that. I don’t even know if she’ll respect those boundaries. I definitely think that I’ll be in a position where I’ll feel like I have to comfort her. I think I’d want someone to mediate the conversation, but I have no idea how to go about asking people for that.

Tldr: I’m meeting up with someone who hurt me to discuss what happened. We are both going in with good faith, and I know that she is calm and can stay that way. I’m anxious because I don’t know what to expect so I don’t know how to prepare. I’ll also have to meet with another person who is much more emotional and unpredictable, so I have the same concerns but to a greater extent.

Anybody have ideas or advice on how to get ready? I know this is confusing, so please let me know if there are any points I can clarify!
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Sofi »

Hi Raffles, would it be practical to write down what you plan on saying beforehand, perhaps? Also, I know in-person is best, but maybe you could meet with B over the phone instead. This way you can even have your points in front of you in case you get too anxious, and it will also be easier to diffuse the situation over the phone if it escalates and she gets really upset.
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

I don't really plan on saying anything. Everything I want to say was written down in the narrative. I think it will probably be more of a time for A to ask questions and tell me about her interpretation. Because of where we live, I think it's unlikely that I would be able to meet with B in person. If anything, we would zoom. How does one go about deescalating a situation with a really upset person? I'm pretty good at talking kids down from tantrums, but I have no practice with adults.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Carly »

Hey Raffles - I think you'd be surprised at how similar the needs of children and adults are. If you were talking down a child from a tantrum, what would you say or do? Maybe we can try to adapt those skills in a strategy for when you talk to A and B.
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

So I didn’t quite follow the instructions, but I did come up with step-by-step instructions. I’ve adapted it for B too, but I want to see how it goes with A first.

Meeting with A
1. Ease into it- Talk about the mundane a bit. Ask how her trip was.
2. Affirm her- Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me. I could tell from your email that you’re committed to learning and doing better in the future. You are so able to look at things objectively, and I really appreciate that.
3. Let her take the lead- Everything I had to say was written down, so I want this to be a time for you to ask any questions or say anything that you feel like you need to.
4. Set a boundary- Some of these things are really difficult for me to talk about, so I might need to leave some questions unanswered. I’m going to do my best to be open and honest about everything, but I’ll tell you if I can’t be.
5. Know how to ask for space if I need it- I need a second to collect my thoughts before I respond OR I’m not comfortable answering that question.
6. Ask for advice- I also offered B a chance to read it before it is published. However, I have been holding off on sending it to her because I am worried about how she will react. Knowing how you felt about reading it, do you have any advice for me going into that conversation?
7. Wrap up- Thank you for taking the time to do this. I know it wasn’t easy. It was great to see you, keep in touch!
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Elise »

Hi Raffles, you have obviously planned this out really thoughtfully about your friend as well as your needs and boundaries. I hope it goes well for you 😊
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

My conversation with A is happening tomorrow! I'll be sure to update. I hope it goes okay.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Sam W »

Good luck!
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

My conversation with A went well today. She was really nervous and definitely almost cried a few times, but she kept it together and it was productive. I think she'll change her ways and do better in the future. Now I'm going to have to figure out how to talk to B. I feel like it's something I'm going to want support for, but I don't even know what support would look like or how to ask for it.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Mo »

I'm glad to hear the conversation with A went well and felt productive! That's great to hear. We're certainly happy to offer help and support around planning the conversation with B if you feel like we could be helpful there.
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

Well, I sent it over to B. We shall see how it goes. I sent (hopefully) a firm boundary that any discussion about it should take place over email (that way it's less likely to catch me by surprise or when I'm out in public). I hope she is able to take it as well as A did. At the very least, I hope she doesn't unearth my mom's email address and contact her.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Sofi »

That's a good idea! I hope it goes well, you're handling this very well.
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

So B read it and texted me (I think I just wasn't clear enough in my email). She sounded upset, but it did sound like she really read it and is thinking about it. She apologized and explained her side a bit. She also emailed to ask if we could set up a time to talk. I'm nervous, but I want to give her the same opportunities that I gave A. I want B to have the chance to have her questions answered and process it. I am still concerned that she is going to get emotional and reactive (especially after I saw how affected A was and she is the level-headed one).

I know it's something I'm probably going to need support for, but I'm not sure what I need or how to ask for it. How much is too much to ask for? I've never really asked for support from people I actually know before, so I don't know what's appropriate or normal.

I have considered having a moderator, but I've decided against it because I think that privacy is important and I also want to give a show of trust. I genuinely want to trust her again and let her become a better person. So that leads me to what I think I might need. What I'd like to do is ask that someone be available during and after the conversation to be "on call" so I can talk about it after. Is that too much or too weird?

I've got a few people in mind. Two of them are people who helped me in the actual writing process. However, one mentioned going through something difficult lately and falling behind on a lot of work. The other is someone I've already asked a lot of and I don't want to ask too much and risk monopolizing the relationship or making the entire relationship about my one problem. I've also considered asking A, but that's a little complicated.

I'm willing to call a hotline, but I feel like that's sort of a last resort for a few reasons. One is that I don't want to have to explain the situation all over again. It would be nice to talk to someone that already knows what's going on and who I am. The other is that I feel weird about calling hotlines just to talk because I feel like there are way more urgent calls than mine. However, I think that the hotline is the most likely outcome given my concerns about unsolicited emotional labor.

Any thoughts? I'm open to all sorts of suggestions like what support typically looks like, what's too much vs reasonable to ask for, and my current thought process regarding a person "on call" to talk me through it.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Carly »

Hey Raffles - I'm happy to hear an update on the situation with A and B. I think you're being very thoughtful and deliberate about your boundaries while trying to meet someone halfway, which is amazing.

I think asking for someone to be available to provide support during or after the conversation is a very reasonable thing to ask of someone you trust. I think you're being really mindful of the way others can show up for you, which is key here. When asking one of these people, would you feel comfortable raising your concerns about their ability to dedicate the time or worrying about monopolizing time? Remember, you're giving them a choice to help. If they say yes, it might be tough to fully let the fact that they're doing it because they want to sink in... but do remember they also have the power to say no, for whatever reason they want or need to. And if they do say no, it sounds like you already understand that their need to decline might not have anything to do with them not wanting to help. And I agree, asking A might be a little complicated. I would try the other people you're thinking of first, as they may be more neutral and objective than A can be right now.

I understand that you're concerned about the privacy and trust issues that may come along with having a moderator. I personally think a moderator of some kind would be a great option to still consider, especially because you're concerned about B's tendency to be reactive. Would you feel comfortable asking B if she would mind if you brought someone that makes you feel comfortable? I think giving B a chance to weigh in will build some trust between you. If you're done considering it and know it's not an option for you, that's totally cool - I just wanted to make sure you weren't foreclosing on something that might be ok in the end.

I don't think using a hotline would be the most appropriate either and agree with the reasons you gave. Asking a friend if they have the capacity to support you through a difficult situation is not as unsolicited as it may feel.

Scarleteen is also here for you if you need us! Besides our message board, we have a SMS (text) helpline and an instant message chat capability. However, something I do need to add is that they are not currently 24/7 services and may not be available during or after this convo.
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

I think that support in this way a reasonable thing to ask for, but I'm scared to anyway. I'm planning on emailing the people who have helped me write it (not A) with a final draft and an ask to moderate/be on call. I don't actually anticipate people offering to do it, but I'm okay with that.

I think I could ask B if a moderator would be okay, but I think I'll probably tell her that it's for my emotional support rather than my concerns about her reactions. I don't feel great about doing that, though. I just don't want her feeling defensive before we even start talking.

My mixed feelings about hotlines have become less mixed as I realized that it might be my best/only option. I've been researching warmlines, and it seems like a reasonable resource. I don't see myself being in crisis after the call, but I could see myself being upset and benefiting from talking to someone about it.

And I am so grateful for all of the support that scarleteen has given me! I am very aware that this is way out of the purview of the organization, so this is a huge thank you to everyone who has responded to this thread. I'll keep everyone updated as things unfold.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Sofi »

Honestly, I think it's okay to sort of sugarcoat the truth (that you want a moderator because you're worried about her reaction) so that, like you said, she isn't offended and already defensive since the start. I know lying is never ideal or good, but sometimes with things like these it's best to just bypass the truth that might just hurt someone's feelings, and they get nothing out of knowing. Plus, saying it's for your emotional support isn't necessarily a full blown lie, so there's that.
Best of luck with whatever route you decide to take <3
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

One of the people who helped me write it offered! I can’t believe it was that easy. I still feel guilty about taking up their time an energy, so there is a possibility that I might tell them that I’m okay and call a warm line instead, but I feel like refusing is also rude? Who knows. It might not work out scheduling wise anyway, so I might not even have to make a choice.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Siân »

Hi Raffles,

That's great! Honestly, when someone offers something I try to believe that they've done it in good faith and genuinely *want* to help you in that way. It's not rude to decline exactly, but I think that both giving and receiving help are acts of trust and trusting someone enough to accept their help is a powerful and vulnerable thing to do. It's also good for us to sometimes turn to others for support! We thrive in community, and both giving and receiving are a part of that.

Having the warmlines as a back-up is a great idea too. You're right that there are plenty of helplines that are not just for moments of crisis but can give more general emotional support when it's needed.

How are you feeling about this conversation with B now?
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

I feel guilty right now because it feels very one sided. This is a person who has given me a lot of support, and I feel like I haven’t given any back. I’ve been on the giving side of one of those relationships, and it’s super easy to burn out.

As for how I feel about my conversation with B, it’s mixed. I’m nervous but prepared for what I want to say. It’s based on the same outline as my conversation with A

1. Ease into it- Ask how she likes her new job and location.
2. Affirm her- Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me. I know that you have such a big heart, and this can’t have been easy to read or think about.
3. Let her take the lead- Everything I had to say was written down, so I want this to be a time for you to ask any questions or say anything that you feel like you need to.
4. Set a boundary- Some of these things are really difficult for me to talk about, so I might need to leave some questions unanswered. I’m going to do my best to be open and honest about everything, but I’ll tell you if I can’t be.
5. Know how to ask for space if I need it- I need a second to collect my thoughts before I respond OR I’m not comfortable answering that question.
6. If she starts to lose her cool- Do you need to take a break from this conversation? I’m starting to feel like I’m not being heard.
7. Wrap up- Thank you for taking the time to do this. I know it wasn’t easy, so I’m grateful that we had this time to speak to one another.

I’m most concerned about feeling like I have to step in and comfort her. I’m not great at crying people, and I feel like there’s a reasonable chance that she will become a crying person. I’m not sure how to walk the line between “it’s valid you feel this way” and “you are the one who hurt me and it is not my place to assuage your guilt.”

I have no idea what she’ll want to talk about, so it’s hard to know how best to prepare. She has already told me of a few spots where she remembers things differently than I do, and I don’t want to get into an argument over those or feel like I’ve just made it all up in my head.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Sofi »

That outline is wonderful. You are giving her space to talk, react, express her feelings, but also establishing boundaries. You're right that it's both valid for her to cry/express guilt, and not your responsibility to take that on, considering you're the one who was hurt. Ultimately, it's up to you if you want to console her and be there for her, or if you choose to not engage in that - and they would both be valid approaches. Same thing goes for if she starts to argue, it's okay to end the conversation if you see it going that route.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

B hasn't responded to me yet. I'm trying not to overthink it, but it's a little weird to me that she wanted to speak the day of and now doesn't seem to want to talk at all. My guess is that she isn't checking her email a whole lot, so I might have to text her.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Carly »

I think this is a good perspective to have, Raffles! B might just need some space, for whatever reason.
Raffles
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

Well today I sent B a final message in an attempt to contact. She has not responded at all, and I have a reason to suspect that I have been blocked (which feels weird). Half of me is relived that we will probably never talk, but the other half is feeling really unresolved. I'm a bit sad it ended this way because I think it could have been productive, but I think we're both a little too hurt for it to have a happy ending.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Sofi »

Sometimes it's for the best to leave things 'as is', and like you said, you're both still very hurt. I find that "closure" is a term people use as something we NEED, but in reality whatever 'closure' is looks different for every situation and sometimes the way to get it is to just close a chapter and let yourself heal.
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Re: Preparing for a difficult conversation

Unread post by Raffles »

So I was getting concerned by her lack of response so I reach out to a mutual friend to ask if she's okay. Turns out B is fine. Logically, I know that this is the best outcome, that she is okay and just doesn't want to engage. But I can't help but to feel a little hurt over being ghosted and possibly blocked. I really wish there could have been a better resolution, especially because I bothered people to get support from them and turns out that I didn't need them all along. I feel sort of bad about having asked in the first place. Well, I suppose that's the end of this thread.
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