I’ve had some adventures. I’ve gone scuba diving in the Red Sea. I’ve bungee jumped off the Bridge to Nowhere in the California desert. But you might be surprised to learn that the most exciting and rewarding adventures I’ve had were conversations.
These conversations were not your typical party chatter about TV shows or favorite restaurants. They were conversations in which my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking; the air crackled with the electricity of risk, truth, and possibility.
These three ingredients are the keys to adventurous conversations. Truth: revealing a truthful feeling or thought that you are experiencing. Risk: not knowing how the other person is going to react to hearing what you have to say. Possibility: the feeling that if you reveal this truth, something amazing could change in your relationship with this person.
Ideally, these conversations will bring greater intimacy and honesty into your relationships. The risk is that your honesty will receive the opposite reaction, pushing the person farther away from you.
If you feel that you don’t have enough adventure in your life, you may want to consider having thrilling conversations. If life feels stagnant, why not bring the excitement of authenticity into your relationships?
I’m not just encouraging adventurous conversations for the thrill of it; these types of conversations can provide the doorway through which you will emerge a more complete person. If you keep all of your thoughts and feelings locked inside you, you may be withholding your identity from both yourself and the world. If you don’t take risks, you may miss opportunities to experience a different life—and to become a different person in the process.
What romance would begin without someone risking rejection for the possibility of love? I remember my first bold move when I was young and awkward. I found myself in an impossibly romantic situation: sitting on a grassy hilltop overlooking Edinburgh, Scotland with an equally awkward young Englishman. But what to do? We were two young people who didn’t know how to make genuine contact.
But I took a leap. I told him about a movie. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a leap, but the train was in motion. The movie was the Albert Brooks comedy Defending Your Life. The main point of the movie, I told this young man, was that you shouldn’t live your life in fear. And with that, I kissed him … and my European romance began.
I’m quite proud of that moment. I had become a different person—a daring, active participant in my life. I had risked rejection and humiliation. It felt powerful and thrilling, so much better than the inertia of the past.
On that occasion, I was rewarded for my bravery when the young man reciprocated my feelings. But in instances where I failed to get the results I desired, I learned that if my mission was to improve my relationship with another person, if I was brave and daring and true to myself I always felt successful.
Another great example of how a truthful conversation can alter a person’s life and identity forever is the “coming out” conversation for many LGBTQ+ people. I had the honor of being a part of my sister’s coming out to our parents. This was a monumental moment in her life. It is a conversation that produces a great deal of anxiety as many fear and dread a loved one’s reaction to their truth. For too many, their fears are realized and they experience rejection. For others, like my sister, they discover freedom, love, and acceptance. Whether this conversation leads to acceptance or rejection, it is a watershed moment. It is a war story, a rite of passage, a pivotal moment in their lives. It is a conversation that unites them with a community of others who have been through a similar experience.
So this is my suggestion to you: Don’t waste too much of your life on idle chat. Through truth, risk, and possibility, you have the power to transform your relationships with friends, coworkers, employers, and family members. Have some adventurous, exhilarating conversations. Whatever the outcome, it will be worth it, because authenticity is its own reward.
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Rena Pollak, LMFT, CGP, therapist in Encino, California
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