Meaningful conversations that challenge your viewpoints and deepen your relationships are treasures. At the School of Life, you can take a class in how to have better conversations. Journalist Otje van der Lelij was intrigued. In this blog you can read a preview, the whole article can be found in Issue 14.
“The thing I wrestle with most myself is how to have a conversation about a difficult subject. I often keep quiet because I don’t like being negative, but my displeasure seeps through the cracks. “What’s wrong,” my boyfriend will ask. “Nothing,” I will answer, “just leave me alone for a bit.” I hate it when others do that, but I do it myself. Or I flip to the other extreme and get very angry.
According to Karsten, I’m not the only one. When you ignore the elephant in the room, everyone gets uptight. It’s better to acknowledge the elephant; it may lead to a heated conversation, but at least contact will be established. Philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965) said something quite perceptive about having difficult conversations: “It takes a lifetime to learn how to be able to hold your own ground, to go out to the others, to be open to them without losing your ground. And to hold your ground without shutting others out.”
Karsten thinks this is spot on, and I have to agree. “It is very difficult to hold your own ground in conflicts, and to also be open to what the other says. We often don’t listen properly because we are scared of being hurt, or sometimes we allow ourselves to be engulfed by the other. So in a conflict you should continually wonder how to hold your own ground and still be open to the other.” Interesting. I will keep this in mind next time thunderclouds gather over my relationship.”
Text: Otje van der Lelij Photography: Bonnita Postma