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Fact Sheet

Having difficult conversations

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Telling someone difficult news about you

When something new, big or worrisome happens to you (i.e. an unplanned pregnancy, the need to enter rehab, being diagnosed with a mental illness), you may experience a variety of feelings that could make it difficult for you to share your troubles with others. You might feel embarrassed, sad, worried or confused about what has happened. It can be scary telling someone about a situation because the people you are telling may have set values and beliefs about the issue that could affect their reaction. It’s natural to feel a bit lost and wonder if this is something you can handle on your own. All these thoughts and feelings are normal. It can taken time to understand why it’s important to let the people you trust know what’s going on with you. They may be able to help you and support you. You may also feel a sense of relief after telling someone. 

Find support. Having someone you can talk to about your situation can help you gain the confidence you need to tell others. Speaking with a counselor, social worker or doctor can help you decide how to tell family and friends.

Be aware of timing. Timing can be an important part of telling someone troubling news. If possible, try to choose a time when the people you’re telling are relaxed or not preoccupied with something else that is going on. That way, they’ll give you their undivided attention. Avoid blurting out your news during an argument, and don’t use your news as a weapon to hurt someone or gain an advantage in a situation. If you tell people during an aggressive or defensive moment, you might end up getting a bad reaction.

Be knowledgeable about the situation. Knowing your options about the situation can help you answer questions and help you avoid stereotypes. For example, if you have lost your job, finding out if you are eligible for unemployment, or having information about how to temp for an agency, might show that you are actively trying to help yourself.

Understand your feelings. By taking time to work out how you feel about the situation and your needs for the future, you can make it easier for you to tell someone else. It’s not always easy to know how you’re feeling, but a counselor might be able to help you sort through some of your thoughts.

Cope with others’ reactions. Everyone has a different way of coping when they hear upsetting news. Some people might be confused or angry, and need time to work out how they feel. Others might have no problem with what you have told them, while some might be relieved that you were able to share your news. If people react negatively, try to remember that it might be because they were unprepared for the news and might need time to think. In time, they may be ready to ask you questions, listen to answers, and acknowledge your feelings. It might also be important to explain things to them a few times as they may not have heard the first time.

Please visit the how to effectively communicate: getting your messaged across fact sheet for additional information.

Last reviewed: Februrary 27, 2014
Edited by: Becca

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  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote


    My parents are over-protective. Security cameras are all over the house (including my room) and they constantly pester me. I’m not allowed to keep my door closed (in fact, their thinking about taking it off) even when I’m getting dressed. I have to use my laptop in the kitchen all the time and every 2 minutes they ask me what site I’m on, what I’m doing, etc. I have no independence, and wherever I go, one of my parents has to come to “make sure I’m not doing anything funny behind their backs.” I’ve never had a boyfriend and I’m a proud virgin, so I don’t know what their worried about.
    Sure, I’ve had some trouble in the past when it comes to trust, but now I’ve proven to them that they can trust me to be on my own. At least I think I have.
    What am I doing wrong?

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      Maybe you can ask them what they’d like to see from you, to further secure their trust.  Keep doing the things they ask, and maybe offer a little more, to let them know you’re willing to live within their rules.  After that, maybe they’ll be willing to trust you a bit more?  Beyond that, you can only just wait until you’re old enough, or financially secure enough, to live separately from them.

      Good luck!
      —The ReachOut Crew

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