The last year has brought an onslaught of difficult conversations into my life. Between my friends, family and clients there has been a lot to tell the truth about, clarify and clean up.

Although the “good-girl, relational, wanting to be loved” part of me has to deal with stomach churning nausea and the impulse to shrivel up and out of my own skin when conflict presents, the wiser and more mature parts of me know that these challenging conversations are actually very good news.

I have spent most of my life consciously and unconsciously choosing behaviors and ways of being that were carefully constructed to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers or being disliked. Thus, experiencing a bit of friction with the people in my life is a tell tale sign that I am growing and becoming increasingly comfortable with the truth of who I am.

I am starting to slowly embrace my own shadowy darkness, getting more truthful about where I have been compromising myself and in turn living dishonestly in relationship to others.

The more that I clarify and hone my own values, priorities, idiosyncrasies, passions and life purpose, the more my relationships powerfully reflect the ways that I have been confused or acting out of incongruence in the hopes of keeping things “pleasant and not too difficult.”

Now this doesn’t mean that I am on a bull-dozing path, preaching my views from the mountain tops and getting in fights left and right. Instead, I am in a gradual, emerging process of connecting deep within and taking stock of my thoughts, behaviors and actions. I am asking myself, where am I telling the truth and where am I lying?

Some of these tough conversations have been by my initiation, whereas others have been brought to my attention by the courageous and wonderful people in my life. Regardless of how a difficult conversation arises, there are huge opportunities available.

Here are three of the opportunities that have emerged out of my difficult conversations:

Opportunity #1: See yourself more clearly and discover your next growth edge

Interpersonal triggers, judgments and aversions are powerful. They hold a lot of energy and also a lot of information if you are willing to take an honest look at yourself and let go of blaming and making the other person wrong. Usually if there is something that we strongly dislike in another, it is because we ourselves hold that quality and/or it is a characteristic that has gone underground into our shadows. When this happens our clever egos have convinced us that we have nothing to do with that.

We of course have the option to keep fooling ourselves and building up higher castle walls to keep those wretched things and people away from us. The only trouble is, eventually we will realize that those very qualities we have been running from are actually accumulating in the basement of our own minds and one way or another they will find a way out.

The more proactive we are about taking ownership and responsibility for who we are, particularly the darker or “less loveable” aspects of ourselves, the less the outer world will need to provide experiences to illuminate our blind spots.

Opportunity #2: Advocate for yourself, your worth and what matters to you

One of my personal imprints as a woman is to easily default into feeling like a victim. I can feel attacked, misunderstood, undervalued or unappreciated. This is both personal to me and also a result of our collective and historical experience of patriarchy.

While these things do sometimes happen, one of the greatest lessons I have learned recently is that if I am loving, protective, appreciative and honoring of myself at a core level, it is a lot less painful and disturbing if I feel like someone else is not providing me the same level of respect.

There is less need to slip into the murky waters of self-pity and victimhood if I’ve got my own back. Instead, I can meet the necessary communication head on, advocate for myself and also listen to where the other person is coming from.

Opportunity #3: Open your heart, listen deeply and increase your compassion

When someone is really pushing your buttons and you feel like you are going head to head it can feel awful and confusing. One thing I try to remember is that there is wisdom to how each one of us is organized and perceiving reality.

We each have unique biographies, backgrounds and life experiences, which have created brilliant and complex systems of responding and reacting to the world. Once we can appreciate this basic fact about another person, it is much easier to genuinely listen and try to receive the truth that is in another person’s heart.

This practice of deeply listening will create greater safety and respect in the interaction with another person, and they will likely then be more vulnerable and honest with you about their feelings. Vulnerability and taking ownership of one’s own experience opens a potential for deeper connection and mutual understanding through differences.

There are an infinite number of opportunities and insights that can emerge out of difficult conversations. If relational dynamics are feeling tough for you right now, I can really appreciate the journey that you are on.

Particularly as we all evolve and change, there are growing pains, which often show up in the form of interpersonal rubs or conflicts. Have heart and stick with it if you can, as the gifts available are bountiful.

With respect and appreciation,