Do you get a knot in your stomach just thinking about addressing relationship weight gain with bae and being honest without being too mean? We don’t blame you. Hard conversations are NOT fun, but talking about tough stuff in a genuine and meaningful way is super important. That’s why we chatted with Kelly McNelis, the founder of Women for One and an expert in showing women how to live a life they love. She broke down some of the most common issues behind having serious talks and how you can say exactly how you feel in a direct but caring way. Read on for tips that’ll help you tap into your truth.

staying quiet isn’t healthy

Speaking up can be really tough to do, but finding the strength to communicate is super important for handling conflict in a healthy way. McNelis says, “Avoiding hard conversations leads us to swallow our feelings, which is literally unhealthy. Resentments we fail to address turn into blame or anger, or they manifest in different ways, like a stress-related illness.” Eek!

If we avoid hard conversations, we hide from the people we’re at odds with, and that doesn’t solve anything. McNelis says, “When we’re acting from fight or flight mode, we get stuck in a state of reacting to what is happening rather than responding from self-awareness and integrity. In every sense of the word, people have forgotten how to ‘adult.’” The power of hard conversations comes from connecting with each other in meaningful ways, like sharing our thoughts, opinions, and voice. “This is how we start working together to create new solutions,” McNelis adds. “We can build our self-esteem and confidence, improve communication skills, and positively affect all of the relationships in our lives!”

Why do we avoid tough talks?

According to McNelis, women have a particularly tough time broaching sensitive subjects or speaking up. Why is that? McNelis has three reasons:

1. We care a ton. Feel like you naturally put your relationships above everything else? You’re not alone. McNelis says, “Women are natural caretakers and peacemakers. We’re trained to be nice, and many of us are afraid of being seen as bitchy. Unfortunately, many of us haven’t been taught to own our thoughts and feelings, so we think they’ll negatively impact our connections with others.”

Having a hard convo doesn’t mean a relationship needs to end. McNelis says it’s a total myth that sharing your raw truth will result in something awful, like the other person shutting down or walking away. Instead, addressing conflict with a BFF or partner can actually help us open up and build a stronger connection. “These are strengths that all women have and can choose to enhance,” she says.

2. We don’t know how to set boundaries. “Sometimes we are so busy taking care of others that we forget to put on our own oxygen mask,” McNelis says. “We have to learn how to say ‘no’ more often, and tap into the power of clarity and choice.” To do so, she says to remind yourself that you can’t be everything to everyone. “When people choose to dislike us for standing up for ourselves and sharing our truths, I’m not sure it’s worth it to have them in our lives,” she advises.

3. We don’t like conflict. We have to admit, social media has made it way too easy to hide behind our computers. McNelis agrees, “These days, you can block or unfriend someone you disagree with, instead of hearing them out and offering your feedback in a neutral and compassionate way.” Instead of cutting someone out because they disagree with your point of view, she says you should “get curious and try to understand why.”

how to have a productive convERSATION

It’s not always possible to have a hard conversation that’s totally painless, but McNelis says there are a number of things we can do to make sure it’s a super-productive experience for both people. Here are her top tips:

1. Tell the truth. Speaking the truth, being vulnerable and honest is the most important thing you can do in a hard conversation, McNelis says. “This isn’t about getting it right, but about connecting with your shared humanity — the parts of you both that are tender, unpolished, and sometimes rough around the edges.”

While it’s not always easy, being totally honest and transparent with the other person can help you understand each other better and rebuild your relationship. “When you’re transparent and authentic, you get clarity,” McNelis says. “You also demonstrate to others that you are trustworthy.”

2. Listen up. It’s important to do more listening than talking when having a tough conversation. “Listening is not a passive undertaking where you let the other person walk all over you,” McNelis says. “It’s about giving people the space to be heard. Nine out of 10 times, people are so busy formulating a response and a defense that they totally forget this part.”

3. Take a power pause. Ever feel like a hard convo is heated or scary? It happens to the best of us! If you’re in this situation, McNelis suggests taking a “power pause,” or a moment to slow down, breathe, and check in with yourself. “Notice how the other person is reacting too,” she says. “Ask them how they feel and notice how this can help ease any tensions you both feel.” Such sound advice!

Have you had a hard convo recently? Tell us how you brought it up and talked it through on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)