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Having Difficult Conversations

A difficult conversation is often the one thing standing in the way between you and greater connection. Many of us have a hard time with these conversations because we don’t have the tools to navigate all of the emotions that arise when we feel vulnerable.

In this episode, we’re discussing how to have these prickly conversations  

Join us as we discuss how to navigate a conversation when you need to talk about topics charged with negative emotions.

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Transcripts

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Gay Men Going Deeper. This is a podcast where we talk about personal development, mental health, and sexuality. Your hosts today are Matt Ladsieldel, Calan Breckon, and myself, Michael DiIorio. Collectively, we have over 40 years of experience in the personal development world. And if this is your first time listening to us,

we wanna welcome you to the show. We each have our own coaching practice, and in this podcast we’re giving away all of our best stuff. Today’s episode we’re going to be talking about navigating difficult conversations. We’re going to be answering these questions in particular, what is an example of a difficult conversation you’ve had and how did you approach it? How has vulnerability strengthened your relationships?

And then what tips can you share for anyone who has to have a difficult conversation? Reminder for everyone out there that we will be continuing this discussion in the last Thursday of the month in the Gay Men’s Brotherhood Zoom Hangout. This is where we give you guys a chance to share your own thoughts on the topics that we discuss here on the podcast. So to find us,

go to the Gay Men’s Brotherhood Facebook group and check out the events tab to rsvp. We’ve got two times for you to choose from. Reminder guys, this podcast and YouTube channel is listener and viewer supported. So if you enjoy what we’re creating, you could support us by heading over to our Patreon page and contributing to the show. You can also subscribe to get early access episodes on Apple Podcasts.

All of your support helps us to continue making content for you and supporting our community. So we thank you in advance. Also, please check out our new attachment style quiz in the show notes to find out what your attachment style is, and then we’ll send you an email where we give you a free report on it. Okay, before we jump in,

we wanna start, as we always do, with a review from one of our viewers. This one comes from Christopher Ata on YouTube and on the episode on masturbation. And he said a brilliant, lucid, enlightening, and liberating discussion between the two of you. What an important topic to explore. On a more personal note, your channel helps me to grow in self understanding and joy.

So thank you. And we wanna thank you, Christopher for that comment. Also, I want to give out a shout out to someone who, not necessarily leave a comment, but a lovely man by the name of Archen who on this past Saturday goes Halloween. He walked up to me in the middle of a dance floor packed dance floor, just simply to say thank you to me and,

and to you call Matt as well for the podcast. He listens to our podcast on his commute on the train, and so he said that he listens to it on his train commute. It’s part of his day and we have helped him grow in so many ways. So Archen, thank you so much for having the courage show up to me on a dance floor in costume nonetheless,

and say thank you. We had a, a really big hugging moment on the dance floor. I’m sure everybody was wondering what the hell was going on. So yeah, I just wanna say thank you to him as well. I know, right? I love that. Okay, so today guys, we’re gonna be talking about difficult conversations. We all have some history with this,

I’m sure if we think back and we will all have to have a difficult conversation in the future. So for my little intro today, I wanna start off with defining what that is. Give some examples for anyone out there who might be wondering what exactly are we talking about, and then why it’s important. Okay, so the way I define a difficult conversation is any conversation where when you think about having it,

it brings up discomfort in you. It makes you feel uncomfortable. So of course this is gonna vary person to person, but it usually involves people having conversations with people we care about or whose opinions we care about. That’s where the discomfort comes in. So let me give you guys some examples on one end of the spectrum or like some more obvious examples that probably come to mind,

like a breakup coming out to someone. We, we’ve all been there. That’s a very difficult conversation to navigate. Any kind of conflict with someone that we love can be hard. We’re just giving bad news to someone. But there’s that, and we’re gonna talk about that. But then there’s also those everyday examples of different conversations that we run into. So some examples I have on this category are telling that super sweet eye,

that is super nice on paper that you’re just not feeling any chemistry and that you don’t wanna see him anymore. Okay? Oftentimes people just ghost, and I don’t, I don’t agree with that. So having that conversation’s really hard, telling your family mom and dad or or loved ones that you won’t be making it home for the holidays this year. Another example is when your friend says,

I want your honest opinion on this, and you know they’re not gonna like it, but you wanna give ’em the honest opinion anyway. So generally speaking, a lot, a lot of conversations that I, that I think people find difficult are saying, No, that can be very hard for people. That’s a difficult conversation. Setting a boundary or maintaining a boundary if a boundary’s been violated,

can be a very difficult conversation to have. Apologizing can be a very difficult conversation to have, or simply just telling the truth. All of these are examples of difficult conversations. So hopefully that stimulates you guys into thinking, okay, yeah, this is maybe a topic that I do need some help with. So why, why are we dedicating an entire episode to this?

I really liked this topic because there’s a trend that I’ve noticed recently and it kind of came to me as we were discussing ideas. So with my own one-on-one, one-on-one coaching, and even within the Healing Your Shame group workshops that we’re facilitating, it’s great to have these guys have these aha moments and moments of clarity and they make these significant mindset shifts, and that’s all lovely,

but as soon as it comes to having to communicate with someone that they’d love, it sends them into a, like a mental and emotional tailspin. As soon as we get to the part of our coaching where, okay, now is the time where you’re going to, the action item is for you to, to talk to someone, to communicate with someone,

it’s like everything just goes out the window. People know what they need to do intellectually, but the actual conversation itself sends them into a panic. This happens all the time. So it got me thinking, I was dissecting it and, and here’s what I’ve come up with, happens to me too, by the way. I’m, I’m not infallible at the core.

What makes the conversation difficult is that it puts us in a vulnerable situation. And the way I’m defining vulnerability is opening ourselves to emotional exposure using Brene Brown’s definition here of vulnerability. So when it opens us up to emotional exposure, it brings up a lot of negative emotions. And then communicating with someone when these emotions are present is very difficult. Either they take over completely that’s me or is just hard to navigate conversations when we’re feeling all these negative emotions coming at us.

So that oftentimes though, that that one conversation, that one difficult conversation is the one thing standing in the way between you and inner peace between you and a deeper connection with somebody between you and your goals even. And so that’s why I think this topic is super important and why we’re gonna be sharing with you our experiences today. Really, we were talking about having difficult conversations,

which is about how we navigate our emotional response during these conversations, during and before and even after. Okay, So to get the most out of today’s episode, I want you, viewer, listener, to have an example in your mind that, that you can think of. I’ve given you guys a whole bunch of ideas. So think of either a conversation,

a difficult conversation you’ve had in the past, whether it went well or not, or perhaps maybe one that you know deep down, Oh yeah, I know I need to have this difficult conversation, I’m just not having it. And then I want you to think about that and, and use whatever we’re saying here today. We’re gonna share our own experiences,

but use that in, in your own, how it applies to you. Keeping in mind that for difficult conversations we tend to trigger our trauma response. So that’s fight, flight, freeze, and fun. Quickly. I’m just gonna go over what that might look like in a difficult conversation. So, and I’ll, and I’ll definitely share some of, some of mine with you and I’m sure Matt and Calan did the same.

So when you’re looking at the fight, that’s gonna look like criticizing and defending the other per or defending yourself or criticizing the other person. If it’s a flight response, you’re likely to just avoid the conversation, try to put it off, wanna run away, not have it at all. If it’s a freeze response, then in the midst of that conversation,

you’ll find yourself shutting down from the conversation, withdrawing completely, stonewalling being completely unresponsive. And then if you’re having a fond response, what that might look like, it’s people pleasing your way out of it, trying to be overly appeasing, overly apologetic. Just to make it end. Just to pick a go away. So you say sorry, you say Yeah,

yeah, yeah, sorry, sorry, sorry. Just cuz you want that to go away. Okay. So those are some common responses to difficult conversations. So now we can jump into the first question. What is an example of a difficult conversation you’ve had and how did you approach it? So again guys, maybe if you can share what, what of your four Fs that,

that you normally would do or that you have done. Always play Calan. You go first. I’m like, are you fucking covered for me? Like I’ve always, cuz that’s how I had to, that’s how I learned growing up, that anything was gonna move or shift or change. It was always just like, okay, well I’m the only one who’s willing to show up for me so I have to fight.

And so it would, that was always my default mode. What about you Matt? Oh are we, are you, we’re not answering, are we doing the whole share? Yeah, Yeah. Answer. Answer The oh Question and then how you approached it. She’s pretty today, it’s fine. So I actually I did, I did not want to go first cuz I couldn’t think of one,

but then I thought of many of them as you were talking Michael, I was like, oh yeah, that one. Oh yeah, that one. I can’t say specifically how I specifically approached it. I know that I have a process when I know I need to have the difficult conversation, but I also wanna acknowledge that there is two parts to this.

There’s having the difficult conversation that you are mentally and emotionally and physically prepared for that you’ve like gotten ready to have. And then there’s the one that somebody springs on you that you did not know was coming, which are two very different things. And the second one is when I tend to jump more into the fight because I’m being like, I feel sometimes like I’m being ambushed by it,

which I think is a tactic sometimes by people who are having difficult conversations. They don’t give the other party the space that they might need in order to mentally prepare for that conversation. So it’s like every time somebody’s like, oh we need to have a conversation, it’s like, oh now all the bad things go. But it’s like okay, you know,

give ’em a little tidbit of being like, okay, I really need, we need, I need to have a conversation around this topic, not right now, but I just want to give you that information so that you could think about things that we might need to talk about and then like we can come back and talk about it. But that’s usually not how they’re done.

It’s usually like, so I need to have a conversation. This isn’t all working out and then the person’s blindsided. So I just wanna acknowledge that there are those two sides to it. But when I’m the person being the one who needs to have the difficult conversation, first of all, I usually pretend it doesn’t need to happen and I ignore it and I just,

I’m like la la la it’s fine, it’ll blow over cuz I really don’t like having it just like anybody else. But then when there’s the ones that I’m like, no, I really, really need to do this, usually where that comes from is it’s because I care about that person and I’m afraid of hurting their feelings or I’m afraid of hurting them.

And those are the really hard ones that are like, those are the ones that I, I know I have to follow through on and I do. But those are also the one like the hard, hard ones to deal with cuz sometimes there’s like those frivolous ones where you’re like, I need to have the conversation but do I really need to have the conversation with that person?

Maybe we’ll it’ll just blow over, it’ll be fine. I don’t always go through with those ones, I kind of just try and let things go. But with the hard ones, I remember kind of specifically there was somebody who was dating here in Toronto and one of the loveliest people, still one of the loveliest people I know just like so bubbly and energetic and just like this is like their personality.

That’s what I was so attracted to. Like they’re just so, so such a great person. And so when things ended up not kind of working out and the way that it was handled from the, I guess my side cuz I wasn’t, didn’t communicate some things that I maybe should have, but also this other person is really awful communicating like doesn’t respond to text messages for like days and weeks,

like that kind of stuff. And so I know that communication’s not one of their strong things that I was like, okay, well I’m not, if this is happening to us, we need to have a conversation because this is obviously part of your routine or part of your thing that if we can move through this, maybe it’ll help you move through this in the future so that you know,

I need to bring this up. And I remember whenever I prepare for a conversation like that, I’m always like, okay, I need to get through all the anger and all the shit first because I can’t bring that to the conversation. And so I do my best at kind of unpacking all the things I need to do. Sometimes I write like a letter of anger to that person to like really let it rip because then that kind of gets that out and then I don’t feel the need to reiterate it later during the conversation.

And I also make like kind of like a key points that I need to talk about when I’m getting into that. It’s like, okay, well what were the biggest things about this situation that I really need to get off my chest that I, I need to express to this person, not because I just want to attack. Because that can be a lot of that energy.

It’s like I need to attack this person but what do I need to communicate to this person? Because I love and appreciate them and I really value them as a person that I think it’s being, it’s doing a disservice to them if I don’t share this with them because I know I can provide that safe space to hopefully be where they can open up and take in the information and grow from it instead of not.

So that’s how I always kind of approach these conversations. And so I make a list, I get out all my anger stuff, I make a list and then I hope for the mess and then I also let the other person know ahead of time in advance and like usually they know a conversation needs to happen and it’s like, hey, we both know a conversation or how this needs to happen,

how would you like to do it on this day in this space? Usually I pick a space like that’s not gonna be around a lot of other people, whether it’s in a private space or whether it’s like outside of a park far away from other people so that it’s a neutral territory so that nobody feels attacked or pressured or anything like that. Which also helps.

And I kind of have my notes ready in my phone like so that if I get off track I can kind of refer to them and be like, okay, because I value this person, I love this person and I’m not there to hurt their feelings. But I also recognize that in having this conversation, your emotional reactions and thoughts and feelings that are coming up by me expressing my truth is not my responsibility.

My responsibility is to do it with kindness and compassion as much as I possibly can. But I by like by no means is it my responsibility to control your response. And I think that that’s why a lot of people don’t have these conversations and why it’s very difficult is because people are like, I can’t control the response and because of that I’m afraid of what’s gonna come back so I’m just not gonna have it all together,

which is why everything’s so fucking dysfunctional. And so even when I prepare, it’s still never great. Like I remember we were walking and like we talked about a bunch of stuff and it kind of goes in waves. I find these conversations always go in waves. It’s like you start off trying to be PC and everybody’s like okay, like let’s get the information out and then the real stuff starts coming out and people start getting angry or upset or attacked and then like you have to deescalate that situation.

And so then you kind of do another circle and then everybody kind of comes back and starts going, Okay, I can see how that happened or I can see how you feel like that and the realizations start happening, but then like the anger of not being able to truly process the information in that moment comes raging back again and they’re like, Oh but I can’t believe this like you said this about.

And so I find they kind of go in a wave and sometimes they need to have more than one conversation. I remember with this particular individual it ended and I felt good because I got to express all the things that I was seeing and feeling in the relationship and like what I saw or what I thought had gone wrong and how the other person was a part of that and what I think could or should have been done.

But that’s cuz I had had the time to prepare and really process and go through it the way that I do. And so I felt good, I felt complete. The other person had told me things that I had taken on board and I said, thank you very much. Like I’m gonna take this on board and and go process it. And then afterwards the person approached or like not approached me,

messaged me was like, I’m not happy. Like I’m not okay with it. Like, and was really angry because they had then sat on all the things and you know, sometimes that’s gonna happen because the shit I’m telling you isn’t gonna be good, happy go lucky, fuzzy shit. It’s the shit that you need to work through in life. And the same with me.

If, if I’m the receiver I then it’s my responsibility to go and deal with that kind of stuff and that’s when it’s like okay, I go to therapy or I unpack that in a healthy way. But if you’ve not been taught those tools and you don’t know how to do it, it could circle back around where the person then gets pissed off again and that’s what happened.

And so then we had to have another conversation, which then things went and they got to say what they needed to say again and maybe a few other things. But then after that I still felt complete because it’s like the first time around I was complete. And so this was me allowing them to then voice their thing and acknowledging that sometimes it’s gonna take more than one conversation,

but that’s usually how I go about having difficult conversations is I make a plan, I get out my rage and do my things. Maybe I have a therapy session, I write a letter or whatever, get that initial out and then I make my notes of like what are the key key points that I need to convey to this other person without it trying to attack them but still letting them know like what went on,

like what I was feeling. And then we have the conversation, maybe it’s one or two and that’s always uncomfortable, it never feels good but you know, focus on doing it with kindness and compassion. So that’s, that’s me. What about y’all? What about you Matt, Y’all? Oh yeah, I’ll say that this, this area has been one of my greatest areas that I’ve had to work on because I codependent people pleaser growing up,

I’m highly empathic and I can feel when other people are disappointed by my truth and I would always deny my truth to accommodate others so I didn’t have to feel their disappointment. So I wanna preface with that the most challenging and again thank you Michael for these questions because I really had to dig in and think about what is the actual hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have.

And I’m gonna share it with you guys today. I’m a little bit nervous to share it to be honest. It’s around sexual turnoffs talking about sex and sharing with somebody that I’m not turned on or I’m turned off by something they’re doing or something that they are is by far the most difficult type of conversation for me to have. So this story has two heads to it and I wanna share both of them.

So I’m not sure which one I’ll start with with the very beginning. Okay, so one of my past sexual partners, I was in a long term relationship with him and there was, well actually I’m gonna, I’m gonna go back a little bit because I’m, I have sensory processing sensitivity, which means that I have pretty much all my senses are heightened including my sense of smell.

Okay? So that is very important to understand about the direction I’m taking this conversation. And throughout our relationship, I started to notice, this was like years into our relationship, I started to notice that there was lack of hygiene and it really bothered me. I don’t like, I’m not a piggy, I’m the opposite of a piggy actually. Like I’m very much like clean hygienic.

And so the, this started to happen and I started to be very turned off sexually. I lost attraction to my partner and the main area would be with unclean for skin. That was the biggest issue for me was the smell of unclean for skin. It just, it, there’s something about it that it just really grosses me out and I was with this person for a long time and I let this unspoken thing destroy our relationship to be completely honest.

I didn’t have the conversation and I just kept denying it and we went years without having sex and being intimate. And so that’s important to note because the universe is very, very magical and it works in mysterious ways. And another past lover after this other, this previous person came into my life and this same issue arose and I was like, oh, why?

I’m like, no, like I don’t want to go through this. I do not want to have to have this conversation. And I contemplated ghosting, I contemplated just ending it and not giving a rationale. And I’m like, no. I’m like, you’ve done so much work Matt, you can tolerate this, you can move through this conversation. This is important to have this conversation.

So I invited him over, we sat down, we had the conversation and it was actually a lot easier than I thought. I still felt that like sinking disappointment feeling in him and like he was kind of embarrassed and there was that energy, but it was like a very simple solution, right? And that I’m glad I had the conversation because it led to a greater intimacy.

He was able to take care of the issue and it was never experienced again. It was great, you know, and I wanna also like say like, you know that this is not a story of like, I prefer one over the other. I love all penises, cut uncut, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a cleanliness thing that’s, that’s, that’s it.

So, and that includes the behind as well. So all cleanliness for me is really important. And yeah, I think the biggest thing that I noticed in the conversation is I had to, I had to just be willing to get into that energy of like super uncomfortable and I just voiced it. I was like, this conversation is gonna make me really uncomfortable and it might make you uncomfortable and I just let you know and and to what you were saying Calan,

I’m like, I find that it’s like it was really hard for me to like just to give him a heads up, be like, hey, like I wanna talk to you about like a sexual turn off I’m having about you. Can we do it on Wednesday? Right? Like I couldn’t do that in this case. Like it had to come like out of left field and,

but yeah again a very simple solution to a very difficult conversation and it changed everything. Our intimacy then bloomed we, he knew what my needs were and he was able even able to accommodate in other areas cuz it brought us into like okay a conversation about like what are your, what are some other turn offs for you? What are some turn ons for you?

And it really led us down a road of deeper intimacy. So yeah. Wow, great example. I thank you for sharing that. I mean that in and of itself was a difficult conversation to, to have here on the podcast. Totally. Thank you for, thank you for demonstrating that for us and Calan as well. You guys both had some really good tips.

I think that that example that you just shared, Matt is a great one where the difficult conversation at the beginning I said it leads to could lead to not always could lead to greater intimacy and connection. And that’s a perfect example of that. And also like way to go for going to the most difficult conversation. I think the question was just share an example,

but you went all out. So good job. Yeah, I contemplated, I’m like, do I share this? Is it appropriate? But for me it was because it is a very big deal for me and I think a lot of people can learn from that because how often are we ghosting people because of sexual turnoffs when it’s like we can move into having the conversation and obviously if it’s something that can’t be changed,

that’s where it becomes even more difficult. Like if you don’t like something that is an attribute of somebody’s that they can’t change physically, then it’s like, okay, you know, how do we navigate that? But in this case it could be changed and I thought it was important to talk about it. I’d be willing to bet if people had the skill of having difficult conversations,

ghosting rates would plummet. Totally. That’s Like, I literally have notes about that because like my recent, one of my recent experiences was kind of around ghosting and I’m just like, I’m waiting to die with, Yeah, yeah. So anyone out there who doesn’t want to ghost or be ghosted listen to this and send this maybe to someone who might need it.

Yeah. Okay. So in my example, I’m going to come at it from the example that I have the most experience with recently, which is my own, my own relationship. Most of my difficult conversations these days are in the space of my, my romantic relationship. I will say as well, it’s an area that, another reason I chose this,

this is the topic I wanted to talk about, is not only because I see a lot of guys struggle with it, but also because I myself have struggled with it in, in various ways in my whole life. So for me these days it’s coming up sort of in these difficult conversations with relationships. So, and navigating conflicts specifically and I have permission to share this,

this story. So the example that I’m going to give was with my partner, we have been on this podcast before talking about how the, the biggest issue that we experience is, is our communication skills. We, we communicate very differently. We have completely different needs. We see the world in very different ways, which can make communicating very, very hard.

So one of the examples I’m gonna share this I think was maybe a couple years ago as we were coming out of Covid, it was the first we were, we’re a covid relationship. So we got together during the pandemic and we had like a long time just the two of us, one of the first times that we went out, we went out to a nightclub and it was the first time that we’re gonna be in a nightclub situation.

I am very much comfortable in these situations. I’m in my element. I love what, I’ve been going to gay bars for years, I’m having a right time, not so much for him. He’s coming at it from a very different history, very different experience. So as our first time together being together in this big gay setting, I was excited and looking forward to it and having fun with my friends and you know,

he was there. So while we’re at the event, we walk in and you know, it’s the first little bit and I can sense his tension. I can just sense he’s something’s off with him, right? And I want to just have a good time. I want to dance and have a good time with my friends. And I could see him kind of like mentally unraveling or he just wasn’t there.

And so in the moment I was like, okay, we need to talk about this. But the natural, or shouldn’t say, I shouldn’t say natural, my automatic response typically would be like, tough shit, hang out a good time, good luck. That’s what I would’ve done like years ago. But in this case I was like, okay, no Michael,

like I could just simply like have a, have a difficult conversation. In this case, a difficult conversation is not only just the space that we’re in, like we’re at a nightclub, but also like, you know what like asking him what’s going on, what’s what’s happening here? Like why are you, why are you being like this? Which is what I wanted to say.

So I had two minds about it. Part of me was like, you’re ruining the mood. Why are you being like this? Why can’t you just like chill out and have fun? Notice the judgment and the criticism and the blame, right? In those thoughts. Why you being like this? Why you blah blah blah blah. It’s very judgy criticizing.

In this particular instance, I did not go without option. I can’t say I always make that choice, but in this particular instance, luckily I went with another option. So instead I said okay, I need to just look at it from his point of view, right? He’s not who I am, he doesn’t have the same history, he’s allowed to have his own feelings,

he’s allowed to have his own experience in this situation. Even though I am perfectly comfortable and I wanna have fun, it’s perfectly a, he’s perfectly okay not to. So instead of saying Why is he acting like this? I’d say okay, he looks, he looks like he’s scared, he looks like he’s uncomfortable. I wonder why, I wonder what’s causing this.

And then instead of why can’t he just chill out changing it to how could I help him chill out a little bit? So notice how this is a little bit more curious and it’s more a, an attempt of understanding where he’s coming from. So again, fortunately in that moment I went with option two and I, again, I wanna underline for everyone.

I don’t always go with option two. This is a hard thing for me that this is a good example, but I have many examples where I did not make the right choices necessarily. So I took him aside, took him to the bar somewhere quiet where there was nobody around and I said, what’s going on? What, what? How are you feeling?

And he kind of glaze over was like, No, no, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. And I said, Listen, I know you’re not fine. I can see you, you wear your emotions on your face, you’re not fine. What’s going on? So eventually he told me, you know, what his situation was and by the way that on his part was an act of great vulnerability on his part.

He didn’t have to do that. He could have just said, I’m fine, don’t, don’t worry about it, but I want to give him kudos too for actually letting me in. So we talked it out as much as we can and I supported him as much as we can in the moment. But that talk helped him ease up a bit and,

and the irony of course is he did chill out a little bit and we did have fun. It was a win-win and all it took again was having that little conversation to like, instead of judging and criticizing him, just saying, Hey, what’s going on? How can I help you? Just that little little thing. So it’s a really good example of how I made that choice the right choice in that case,

not to judge and criticize and disconnect. I made the choice to connect. So that’s my example of, of how I approach it in a positive way. I don’t always do that. So a lot of the examples that we’ve heard here today, we’ve talked about vulnerability and how at the core of this is a is a is talk about being vulnerable in our relationships or with people.

So next question is, how has vulnerability strengthened your relationships? And we’ll start off with Calan. I’m actually excited you put that question, this question in this one because you know, we talked about crying last week or the week before and it’s interesting that I didn’t bring this up during that conversation, but I will now. So vulnerability is huge when having these kinds of conversations.

And so what I’m speaking about specifically is that, you know, when I used to lock up, when I used to close down and and you know, turn off the world and like, oh I’m fine, like don’t talk to me and like bad communication skills in that regard. Everything used to build and I used to feel like I was alone and it was like building my own gilded cage.

But now that I’ve worked so much on communicating, I’ve worked so much on learning on like what do I need? What are my needs? How can I best communicate? Like what can I do? How can I have these conversations? You know, this example of me going over to Michael and Star’s Place actually was a huge step for me in regards to communicating and being vulnerable.

So my mom had been diagnosed with cancer this past Christmas like last year and I was stuck in, well not stuck but I couldn’t afford to go back and see her. And I was in Toronto and it was kind of a blindside and I didn’t know how to handle it. And normally I would lock it all up or I would just kind of process it on my own and I would just be like,

okay, well I’m on my own, I’ve always been on my own, I’ll do this. But instead I decided to lean into the connection and share that experience. And so I was like, I have these two amazing people in my life who continue to build my trust in them and hold that space for me. And so I messaged Michael, I was like,

Hey, can I come over later today? And I didn’t really give him too many details, I was just like, I really need this as a friend. And he was like, Yeah, of course, no problem. And so I went over and then like almost immediately I just like as as telling and sharing what had happened that day and just like immediately burst out into tears and like Star was like right there with the hugs and like Michael was right there with the tissues and like it,

it was the first time in my life that I had chosen to have that experience And I’m so glad that I did because like it’s, it was definitely a healing experience in me in regards to communication, in regards to building trust, in regards to all these things that I used to lock up and and and hide away. But that has taken years of building up to getting back to a place where I can do that because I’d never could have done that before because I couldn’t do that as a child even with my own parents.

So like how can I do that with other people? And so being able to be in that space and be vulnerable and not only just like be vulnerable and like share something that really, you know, ha happen but also to then cry in front of other people I never used to do Like that was like a big no no in my mind. And so that experience brought me closer together with Michael and Star.

And I remember in that moment being like, oh okay, there are people in the world who can hold that space and who can be your friends and who can still love you and like won’t judge you and all that. And it opened me up to then being able to do that with other people eventually. Like there’s been no reason for that to come around now.

But now I have like this opening in that space where it used to be like, oh I can never do that. Whereas now I look at relationships, I’m like, I am excited about the process of being in relationship with other people because when you get to experience those things it means that you’re building more, I don’t know, relational strength and like vulnerability and all the good juicy stuff about relationships into it.

And so for me, I’m like now I’m excited to have those experiences with others because now I’m like, oh that felt so good and like I didn’t have to feel guilty about it. I guess there’s this weird thing of like I felt guilty about like putting the burden on people cuz like maybe that’s how I felt with that experience I had with my best friend when I cried and she didn’t know how to handle it.

It was like this guilt that I then had of putting this burden on somebody. But for Michael and Star to be able to just hold me in that and just be like, cool. Yeah cuz they’re not taking on my stuff but they’re still being empathetic and caring about it. You know, that vulnerability really helped for me strengthen that relationship that we have.

So I want to thank you Michael for being a part of that and thank You for opening yourself up to it. Yeah and I’m You did the work. Yeah, but I, that’s the thing too is I had to choose to do the work. Yeah. And it’s very much helped me in relation and processing relationships and showed me that oh no, this does exist out in the world.

So, so yeah, being Vulnerable and it goes back to the trust. We did a couple episodes on trust, a few episodes back. Right? What builds trust. That is a great example. Yep. Yeah, exactly. So that’s, that’s my story on vulnerability and strengthening relationships, whatever you meant. I want just comment on what you just shared cuz I,

I’ve noticed a softening in you and I think it started at that time with your mom getting diagnosed with cancer and then, you know, that was a pretty big thing. And then I’ve noticed just this real softening occurring in you since then. So it’s beautiful. Thank you. I was trying to think about how to, how to answer this question if I wanted to go platonic or romantic,

but I think I’m gonna answer both. So I’ve talked about, you know, in previous episodes that I’m demisexual and for me, vulnerability is my special sauce. I love it. It’s, you know, it arouses me, believe it or not, like, you know, a guy can send me a dirty picture and I actually won’t have a physical response like get an erection.

But if a guy is expressive and vulnerable with me, like I will get an erection. So it’s just really interesting how vulnerability emotional expression is like everything for me, you know what I mean? And it, it’s, it’s tough because it’s been challenging finding that in, in the community because we’re all men and we all come from the conditioning, which we talked about in the crying episode around don’t show your emotions,

don’t be vulnerable. So I feel like I’m in this like between this rock and a hard place. It’s like I crave these things, I need them for sexual arousal, but a lot of men are really there. This isn’t a, a refined skill for them. So anyway, that’s, I’m hoping that these, this starts to evolve the consciousness of,

of masculinity we’ll say so that more and more men can learn to be more vulnerable. So, and then I think about it like why does this turn me on? I think a lot of it has to do with deep connection. Like for me as a demisexual, like I just, I yearn for deep connection. I want to connect with somebody, I wanna learn about them,

I want them to stimulate my mind, I wanna stimulate their mind. And I think for me, vulnerability is what does that it, it’s like sharing ideas is very vulnerable, right? What if this person doesn’t agree with my ideas, Right? That sort of thing. And when we do that and we’re willing to put ourselves out there, there for me,

there’s just something really yummy about it. And so I would say trust. So I know that the person won’t hold back and hide themselves from me is a big part of it. And I think for me, intimacy is, is exactly that. Letting somebody in to see me and then somebody else letting me in to see them. That for me is,

is really, really beautiful. So, and then I just wrote down humility is something that’s really sexy. Like I love a guy that’s, that’s humble, there’s something about that. It’s, it’s very attractive. And for me there’s many ways to experience and be, be humble. But I think a man that’s willing to share his fears and his insecurities is a big part of that for me.

So again, another thing that that arouses me is if a guy’s willing to go to those places and talk about those things. Cuz oftentimes we, we, we harbor those things. We don’t share those things because it can be ammunition for somebody maybe on the narcissistic spectrum, right? They learn what your vulnerabilities are and they can come at you with those.

But so again, you’re putting a lot of trust in somebody when you’re sharing your fears and insecurities. So that’s one of, one side of it that’s kind of a more on the romantic side. And then on the platonic side, I have, I had an interesting experience with my father about a year ago. I was doing a lot of work on like father wounding in this,

at this time, this was about a year ago and I think I might have even shared this in a previous episode, but I, I sat down with my dad, well first of all my, my coach at the time told me to write some stuff down and it was like things that I, things I notice about our relationship and be very vulnerable,

things that I wanna apologize for and things I appreciate about him. And I wrote like big lists like of, of these things. And my, my homework from my coach was to sit down with my father and talk about and, and just read this to him. And it was really powerful. Like my father, I’ve seen him cry three times in my life.

That was one of them. So two previous times. And he got really emotional. He, he started to talk to, you know, about what it was like to have the experience that I was, you know, talking about and the traumatic things that occurred in our, in in our upbringing and and stuff like that. And it led to such beautiful intimacy.

And for me it was the closing of the strainful relationship. It just closed it. Like now my father and I, we just, we, we have such a easy neutral relationship like that. That doesn’t mean that there’s not like still stuff that comes up or whatever, but I had a real hard time moving towards my dad most of my life. Like I just couldn’t let him in and I felt like he couldn’t let me in.

And that conversation just shifted that something really changed. And so it was my vulnerability and my willingness to have that difficult conversation with him that led to his heart just completely opening my heart, completely opening a beautiful healing took place. And now we have a, it’s like, it almost feels like a nice rhythm. Like we just get it. Like he shows up for me,

I show up for him. We give each other space. Our space isn’t misconstrued as like he’s abandoning me or he doesn’t, he’s not interested in me. It’s just, it’s just there, you know, and it just happens. So yeah, that was, that was a huge, huge pivotal turning point in my relationship with my father. And I’m,

I’m very glad that I, I took the risk to have that difficult conversation cuz it paid off huge. Yeah. Thank you for sharing all those examples. Yeah. The, the emotional risk that we avoid or that we do, the fight flight fund freeze oftentimes leads us to the very connection that we seek it. It’s, it’s hard, like, I like these,

these hard conversations. If, if we have the skill can bring us closer or if even if it doesn’t, it kind of sets us both free, right? Like if we’re thinking about a breakup situation or a ghosting thing, like it sets you both free without any kind of like resentment or regret or like, oh maybe I should, should have, could have done this differently or better.

Yeah. All right, so for my example, again, I’m gonna stick to the relationship fields for me cuz it’s very much alive. So normally I’ve talked about how vulnerability in the sense of like sharing my wants cuz similar to Matt, I very much have a people pleaser history that still likes to come up from time to time. And so a lot of the,

the vulnerability at the beginning was about sharing what I want and, and my own needs and desires and at the risk of being rejected. So that’s kind of where I’ve done it in the past. Today I’m gonna take things a little bit differently, sort of the next phase of that where, where I’ve seen vulnerability for myself strengthen my relationship is that the forgiveness piece.

I used to hate apologizing very much pride, very much in my ego. I would not want to admit wrongdoing probably because my conflict response was similar. It was a fight, it was criticized and defend. Here’s all the ways I’m right, here’s all the ways you’re wrong and I just keep coming at you until you break down. But where does that leave me?

So what I’m right, we’ve completely disconnected, right? It does not leave us any closer together. It does not leave us anywhere. So my, my learning over the last couple years has been to be the first to apologize. And let me tell you, not only has it changed our relationship, it’s so much just, it’s better for me. Like it,

it just makes like I’m lighter because of it. So my partner would agree that in about 95% of the time these days, I’m the first one to reach out to repair a rupture, which I cannot believe that I’m saying that cuz I would never do that normally. And keep in mind I don’t really want to, it’s not like I’m excited to do it.

But every time we do have that kind of rupture in the relationship, usually I’m the first to be like, okay, fuck, okay, here’s, here’s what, or I went wrong or here’s where we went wrong. I want to make this better. I want, I wanna move it forward. We’re both stubborn people. I’m very stubborn by nature,

so is he. We both love being right and we both both love to tell each other how we’re right and the other person’s wrong. So it could make communicating very challenging. So again, but what’s the cost, right? We’ve gone down that road and we’ve had, you know, conflict and, and at what cost we end up making things worse.

We end up operating things even more. Someone has to be the fir someone has to be the one to make the first move to extend that first olive branch. Someone’s gotta do it. That is very vulnerable. It, it kind of, to me, my thought process at the time was, well then I’m admitting that I’m wrong and I would never want do that again.

Very ego, very much my ego, very prideful. But I’ve learned to, if I want, if ultimately what I want is connection and ultimately what I want is intimacy, then I gotta just put that away. Just put that away and at least make that first step. So being the first to apologize, or even actually I shouldn’t even say apologize,

just being the first to reach out has been a very uncomfortable thing to do. I feel like, you know, it’s just putting the tail between my legs, but I reframed it to say no. If I, I could be, I’m just as uncomfortable being angry and like festering here on my own. The alternative sucks. So why might as well just go and reach out and say,

Hey listen, I’m sorry or hey listen, we need to talk or whatever that, that might be for us in that moment. So in a conflict situation, I’d say that’s how most recently I’ve learned to be more vulnerable and soften after coming outta these like super fight responses of criticism in defend. So yeah, the, I feel like we’re really diving into my relationship here guys.

We don’t fight all the time. I promise we we do get along. Yes I can, I can attest to that, but I realize that relationships do, do give us the container, right? Like it doesn’t have to be romantic, it could be friendships or with parents, whoever. But these relationships do give us a container to practice all of these great skills.

Okay? So for anyone out there who at the beginning I said you probably have had a difficult conversation or you know, deep down you have to have one with someone. I want you to think about that. And now we’re gonna answer what tips can you share for anyone out there who has to have a delightful conversation. And I will say we’ve already given some great tips,

all of us. So what else do we have to add on to the, the list here? Go ahead Colin. So yeah, so I shared most of mine in the first part of like, you know, getting all the rage out, writing a letter that you don’t necess that you don’t send. It’s just kind of for you to get that emotion out,

making key points that you need to talk about so that when you do sit down to have the conversation, you can like actually focus on, okay, we’re getting off track, like these are the things we need talk about. But what will add on to this is that don’t be the person who ghosts especially, especially if it’s like not just a frivolous like ghosting where it’s like,

oh, they didn’t message me back on Grindr. Or like, oh we went on a date and then they never texted back. Not like that. But like if you’ve invested time, it’s been more than a couple dates, it’s been more than a couple weeks. It’s, you know, whatever that looks like I’m using like the relationship example. But don’t be that person who just ghosts and is just like,

or just sent that one word. Oh I, we can just be friends, sorry. Like we’re just gonna be friends. Don’t do that because then you’re taking away that other person cuz I’ve had this experience, you’re taking away that other person’s, you know, option to learn and grow. Well why are you ending this? Like why is this not working out for you?

And it’s, and I find, and this is very judgmental and very making assumptions, but I find it’s because they aren’t willing to work on their stuff or don’t wanna look or admit their stuff. And by them having the conversation with you, they know you’re gonna bring up that stuff. So they’re just like, I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this.

But you’re doing a disservice to all parties in that regard because then you’re not letting yourself grow. And that should scary, but that’s why you have to do it. That’s the point of being here. Otherwise you’re just gonna keep repeating the same cycle and the same things over and over and over and over again. You like Matt who went through that, you know,

relationship transformation with his dad. You can’t experience those things and grow if you don’t let yourself get into those exchanges and you don’t let yourself move into those. And I know that not a lot of us were taught how to navigate these and they are messy and can be so up and down, but that’s part of being human, that’s part of the experience.

No matter how much you plan or plot ahead or like me, like me, I make a plan and sometimes you’re gonna have more than one conversation about it. But give yourself and give that other person the opportunity to at least have the conversation. Don’t make the assumptions that this person’s gonna say all these things back or you know it’s gonna turn out a certain way because you’ve dreamt it up in your head that that’s the way it’s gonna go or that’s the way it’s gone in the past.

Give the other person the benefit of the doubt of like, like, Oh you aren’t reacting the way I thought you were gonna react cuz you don’t know each individual human is their own unique self is gonna react differently than anybody else. And one of my biggest learnings, especially over the last couple of years is learning that leaning into those conversations and having them is so much more freeing and it does allow you to kind of learn more about yourself and learn more about other people.

And it does bring you closer together. It’s not always, sometimes it doesn’t bring you close together. I’ve had conversations, there’s one coming to mind particularly where it didn’t bring us closer together, but I think both parties got a lot out of the conversation and learned a lot. And so I would just encourage you if you’re listening to this, to be open to those experiences because there’s like,

not nothing worse, but like being ghosted is like the worst shittiest feeling and we all feel it when we get ghosted. So then why would we want to do that to other people? And I think that’s the thing that pushes me over the edge when I’m thinking about like, oh, I don’t wanna like respond or like whatever. I always go back into myself and I go,

Well how does it feel when that happens to me it feels really fucking shitty. So even if ripping off the bandaid and telling this person, Hey, I’m not interested or whatever is gonna suck, I would rather give that space to happen because that closure door happens and then none of us have to carry around this weight or like unpack all this shit on our own.

It can just be like, Oh, cool, done. But if you drag it out, then it stays with you in a way that you don’t need it to stay with you. So that’s what I’ll add on to that. What about you, Matt? Yeah, I want to just say that ghosting is a flight trauma response. Like, it sounds like simple,

but really if you think about it like it is, it’s like it’s a flight trauma response. And, and usually when we are fleeing something, it shows, it’s showing that there’s a lack of emotional maturity, right? We have a lack of emotional maturity to actually navigate this. So again, like there, we have so many podcasts that that can help develop this,

the Building Better Relationships course, a lot of that is about the first half of that course is developing emotional maturity, connecting into your relationship with yourself so you can be more mature in your relationships with others. So I just wanted to point that out. Okay. So my first tip is say what you’re feeling. Okay. And that has two prongs to it because say what you’re feeling in the moment is like,

you’ll notice like, you know, at the beginning of this, I was like, I, I externalized my feeling that I was nervous to share that my story because it was bringing up discomfort for me. As soon as I externalized it, it was gone. There was no more nerves, they were gone. It was like me trying to hold it in there without being vulnerable,

wanting to share it. That was making it like stir around inside my body. So like at the beginning of a difficult conversation, just externalize and say, I’m very nervous to have this conversation. And that can sometimes soften and then say what you’re feeling means also to speak your truth. Like just go, go for it. Because if we fawn, we don’t get our needs met,

right? We, we are trying to meet their need of not wanting to feel uncomfortable, and yet then we are not getting our needs met. So always speak your truth, even if it leads to disconnection. Your truth is probably the most important thing that you have and that you can offer somebody else. I just really wanna say that and I’m coming into that energy now in my life and I wish I came to it sooner because it would’ve spared me so much,

you know, strife in my life. But now I’m just in this real fierce energy of speaking my truth and it’s leading to some really beautiful power, power within myself, which is, feels very good. My next tip is to take it slow and try not to rush. Having difficult conversations, especially from an authentic place, is an embodied experience. And I think if we are rushing and we’re like,

you know, verbal diarrhea everywhere and we’re just like mental energy, the conversation, then it’s going to not allow the pace for the other person to fully absorb, for you to fully share from a heart centered place. It’s just like, okay, I’m gonna get this over with and I’m gonna say it really quick. And oftentimes when we’re in that energy,

we come across as not very concerned about how it’s being received. On the other side, we’re just, all we’re caring about is getting it off of our chest and not caring about how it’s gonna land with the other person. So when we slow down, we hold space, we’re really holding a beautiful space for what is coming out of our mouth to then therefore land in the other person and they can,

they can receive it, you know? And again, I always look at relationships as two nervous systems. That’s really what it is. We’re two nervous systems are coming together and trying to work out, you know, how to coexist. And the slower more space we give our nervous system, the more we can connect to our authenticity, the more that we can get dysregulated and stuff.

So I always say slow down is really important. And how do we do that? Well, we breathe right? Breath is everything. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a breath. When you’re about to share and it feels difficult, take a breath. When you notice the other person feel uncomfortable by your share, take a breath. Everything is about taking a breath and resetting your nervous system so you can go that little extra distance.

And, you know, moving through discomfort for me is about pushing your edge back. And I, I always, when you know, when, when I’m in these, these sort of conflictual situations or where conflict is potential, I always will move a little bit. I’ll feel very uncomfortable, take a big breath, breathe down into my belly, and then my edge pushes a little bit further out so I can move that much closer into connection.

And you know, I think that would be my last tip is make, make remaining and staying in connection a priority. Because I think that’s so essential in this work because if we are ghosting, we’re not, like Calan said, we’re not growing, the other person’s not growing, we’re we’re, you know, leading to disconnection, which disconnection leads to unhappiness.

And so I think that’s, those are, those are kind of my tips. So Those are all awesome tips. Yeah. Yeah. I think this episode is loaded full of, to break from the jump. I guess what I would add, and I think Calan said some stuff earlier that I wanna go back to. That was really good. I wrote it down,

Get your own stuff out first. I think that’s a really important one. I wanna underline Calan said at the beginning, like, make sure you go in with this clear of a mind and body as possible. Not always gonna be the case, I get it, but where possible try to figure out, okay, what am I feeling? What’s, what’s at the core issue here?

That way, you know, going in otherwise you can end up in this cycle where you’re just getting lost in the weeds and you’re adding more issues on top and you guys are just, it’s not a good scene. And then have your, if it’s something that you can prepare for, again, Calan said, have your keynotes, that helps me a lot.

Otherwise, I do end up going from one thing to another, jumping from this line to that my next, you know, I’m talking about something, something happened five years ago. So yeah, those are really good ones. I wanna thank Calan for that. I would add, for me, be willing to be wrong. Anyone out there who, who also comes with a lot of ego into these things,

be willing to be wrong. It’s, if you get defensive at that suggestion, then this is for you. As soon as I said that you’re like, then that’s, you’re definitely the one who needs to practice this. I think when you get out of defending and criticizing that fight response, not to say that you’re gonna agree with them, right? But you can do more listening,

which is my second point. Then you can just listen. Like, just come at it from like, okay, I’m gonna get curious, Tell, tell me everything. Tell me why. Tell me why this is the case. Tell me how you feel. Tell me what you’re thinking. That in and of itself, I think opens up a lot of empathy,

especially if this is a conversation with someone that you love and that you do wanna have a connection with. Getting to that space of listening can really help create the empathy if you’re doing, if you’re like listening for real without listening to want to like jump in and, and again defend and criticize it. No, no, no, but here’s how you’re wrong.

Let them have their opinions. Let them have their say and be willing to be wrong. Something that I like is I just, when I’m in the right space for it, is like, tell me everything, tell me all the ways that I’m wrong. And that takes a lot to, to hear that. But if you can get into that space of it without needing to like make it about you or without having to jump to,

to defending yourself, it’s really interesting to see where things go. And then from there you can open up space to develop greater empathy. Like, oh, that’s why, that’s why you feel this way. That’s why you’re acting this way because you feel, I don’t know, not seen, or you feel like I’m ignoring you and that’s what’s causing this.

Okay, now I can start to put this puzzle together and I can see where that’s coming from and that, that is a skill that takes time. Admittedly, it’s taken me time anyway, for some people it’s gonna take more time than others. That’s me. Yeah. So over time I think that as you do these things, listen, you know,

quit the criticism and blame listen more. Create that empathy and understanding. It does create more of that intimacy and creates a culture of connection within the relationship. Those are my last two tips. Hmm. I wanna add something. Yeah, I do wanna add something. So I always ask myself, I’m like, do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?

Yeah. And that’s so important because I often, and I also wanna say this too, I don’t think in relationships it’s about right and wrong. And I think reframing that is so important because you know, is it, it usually comes down to am I listening? Am I making this person feel heard or am I not making this person feel? And that’s the right and the wrong.

Cause we’re always in life, we always have different perceptions than other people. We always have different realities than other people. Cause our perception is informing the meaning that we make of our reality. So, but I want to also validate what you’re saying, Michael, because there is some instances where right and wrong is important, like, you know, to have that conversation.

But it’s usually comes down to people not feeling heard. And are we offering somebody that space to feel heard? And when we’re wanting to be right, we’re not. We’re just, our ears are turned off and our mouth is turned on and we’re literally going in hard, right? So it’s like how can I slow that down and how can I make connection a priority?

So Yeah, and I want to piggyback on that and add to it that it’s understanding does not mean you are in agreement and that you should be listening with the intention to understand and that that will help that goal of like, you know, do you wanna be right? No, you wanna understand and it doesn’t mean you’re going to agree, but a lot of people think that understanding means that you’re like def admitting to defeat.

I even remember I talked about this in an episode and I saw a comment and somebody’s like, But by default, like that’s what people think it means. And it’s like, but that’s not what it means. And so by you choosing to under like understand it like that, like you’re getting it wrong. You are needing to listen with the intention to understand and that that does not equate to you agreeing with what the person is saying.

It just means that you are willing to show up. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. And that often softens the other person just hearing them out without having that it’s, it softens the entire situation. Yeah. Something for people out there who get defensive, like I do, something that I ask myself is what am I trying to protect? What, what’s at the core of my defensiveness here?

And that’s something that I can reflect on my own time. Like maybe after the fact. Like that’s, that’s sort of my own work to do. So like what? Why do I have this need to defend what’s, what’s at the bottom of that? Yeah. Okay. These are all really, really good tips guys. Thank you so much for sharing them.

Any other last words before I wrap this up? We’re all good. Okay guys, thank you so much for turning into today’s episode. We really seize every Thursday. If you like what you heard today, please go ahead and give us a five star rating. If you’re on YouTube or anywhere that we have reviews, I think Apple as well. Go ahead and leave us a review.

We may end up reading it on our next episode. And please check out the show notes where we have the attachment style quiz and you can learn how you can support us in creating this content. And finally, yes, don’t forget about the gay men’s brotherhood Zoom hangout on the last Thursday of the month. We hope to see you there. And thanks to my beautiful co-hosts,

Matt and Calan, thanks again for sharing your wisdom. See you later guys. Bye.

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