Don’t Say “We Need to Talk.” Do This Instead.

a sepia toned photograph of two people sitting on a park bench, viewed from behind
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There’s a meme that’s been going around for a while, based on a viral tweet. It says, “Send me a ‘we need to talk’ text and I’m just going to respond with ‘yeah. We absolutely do.’ Now we’re both waiting with spicy armpits.”

Spicy armpits. OMG. I’m still laughing at that.

But there’s a definite truth underlying all of that. There are few words as dramatic and doom invoking as “we need to talk.” It’s a phrase that’s the province of bad Movie of the Week relationship drama.

So that’s what you’re heralding when you use it. A segue into other cliched stressful scenarios. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Blech.

Or at least a conversation full of uncomfortable ultimatums.

“Tell Me Now”

A friend of mine recently conveyed their own technique, what they do when someone utters those dreaded four little words.

“I call them. I call them right then,” they said. “Over and over. Until they pick up. And I say, ‘tell me now.'”

Because they aren’t going to wait around with spicy armpits for anyone. Life’s too short for that kind of nonsense.

Sometimes It’s Better to Rip Off a Band-Aid Quickly

I’ve known lots of people who’ve advocated for the “we need to talk” approach.

“Okay, Page, sure it fills people with dread. Completely understandable,” one friend said. “But don’t you think it’s important to warn a person that a talk is going to be heavy before they go into it?”

And that has a certain appeal to it, that line of reasoning. Informed consent being an important principle of mine. But then again, fear of something happening is often worse than when it actually happens. And when it comes to difficult conversations, sometimes it’s just best to rip off the Band-Aid.

That said, you probably shouldn’t unload onto someone who is not mentally prepared for a big important talk.

Luckily, you don’t have to. You can do that without “we need to talk.”

Don’t Say “We Need to Talk.” Do This Instead.

Recently, I broke more difficult news in one conversation than I could remember doing ever before. I had given no indication before we met up that I had anything heavy to say. But what I did do was the following:

  • Arranged a time to meet in person where we had plenty of time alone to hang out and talk (eliminating the extra stress of my conversation partner having to worry about how they were reacting to bad news in public)
  • Talked for 20 to 30 minutes prior to moving into the heavy news about lighter things, gossip, news, subjects that were easy and carefree.
  • Evaluated my conversation partner’s mental and emotional state during the lighter topics, making sure they seemed like they were in a place where they could handle harder news.
  • After determining they were in a place where they could handle the heavier topics, moved quickly into sharing that news.
  • Broke the news quickly. Just said it upfront rather than spending several minutes winding up to it and making them more anxious as they mentally guessed what I had to say.
  • Proceeded to discuss ramifications and provide emotional support as they absorbed the news.

Was it a tough talk? Yes. You bet your boots it was.

But after it was over, they thanked me for the way I broke the news. Even going so far as to say that they were so glad I didn’t do the whole “we need to talk” thing.

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My new book is out!

Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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