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wundayatta's avatar

Why do people resist those "we need to talk" talks? Is avoidance good for a relationship?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) June 1st, 2012

I recently asked a question about how people feel when they hear “we need to talk,” and a lot of people answered that those words are words they kind of dread. It makes them feel like they did something wrong, among other things.

I’m wondering why people resist these talks so much. I know I do, too. They feel quite unpleasant, I guess. No one wants to be beat up on. On the other hand, shouldn’t those talks clear the air? Shouldn’t they solve problems and make things better? Shouldn’t they improve our relationships?

I guess I have to wonder now. Maybe having those talks doesn’t improve things. Could they make things worse? Could it be a good strategy to avoid those talks and hope the problems disappear on their own?

Do those talks work, in your experience? If not, why not? If you avoid those talks, does that work? If so, why do you think that works? Perhaps avoidance is good for the health of a relationship?

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12 Answers

jca's avatar

I think it’s the opening statement of “We need to talk.” I think that’s intimidating. I think a more gentle opening statement would be less intimidating, or if people just started talking without the opening statement.

DominicX's avatar

My roommate once received a message from his girlfriend “we need to talk” and he told us all that they were breaking up and that was the end of the relationship. That was before he even had the talk and realized that it wasn’t going that far. I understand why people want to avoid it because it does sound like “something bad is happening” but ignoring it is just going to make it worse. Case in point: my other roommate just had a long argument with his girlfriend on the phone the other day because she told him “we need to talk” and he said “forget it, I’m too stressed right now”. She didn’t take that well, needless to say (the walls are paper thin, I heard the whole thing). If that has taught me anything, it’s that you have to talk if someone in a relationship says they need to.

That’s just my experience. Maybe in some cases it makes it worse, I don’t know. When my boyfriend and I “needed to talk” it would’ve killed me if he had ignored it.

bookish1's avatar

I agree with @jca. For me, the problem is not that a partner wants to bring something up, but doing it that way puts me on edge from the beginning. I don’t believe in avoidance at all; it only makes things worse.

gailcalled's avatar

It is best to think of a better opening gambit.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it touches our insecurities. We need to talk because something is wrong. Either the person is unhappy, which could be scary, maybe they want to leave? Or, we need to talk because you keep doing things that I think are wrong, so you either start feeling like a bad person during the talk or get defensive. Sometimes we need to talk is just the person initiating the talk feels they need to explain themselves for something they have done, explain what has been going on with them because they themselves feel burdened with having done something they regret.

I don’t think I use the expression we need to talk. Somehow the word need sounds to ominous. I say things like, “I have a question, but don’t get upset.” It makes me laugh as I write it, because this has developed over time in my relationship with my husband. It’s like a fair warning to him he is going to be annoyed by the question. I also say, “I want to talk about XXXX, because I hope we can handle it differently in the future.” So, right from the get go he knows what the conversation will be about.

We need to talk and then making someone wait or guess what is going to be said sucks, because anticipatory anxiety is some of the worst type of worry.

Coloma's avatar

Maybe they’re all talked out.
Endless talking and recycling issues that never get resolved is a place I plan on never visiting again. I am a very proactive type, let’s just put all our cards on the table, and get ‘er done and MOVE ON!
I do not handle avoidant personalities well at all, zero patience for cud chewing and bovine head in the weeds attitude.

I don’t hold grudges, my anger dissipates quickly, but the fatigue of endless rambling that solves nothing could drive me to kill no doubt. lol

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Some people want to only focus on the easy or good parts of their worlds and hope everything else will fall into place.

My husband used to be one of those people until he lost his wife and children. Remarried, he is open to a lot of communication and participation he says he wouldn’t have bothered with before.

zenvelo's avatar

For me it is because it is one sided and not a conversation. The person who says it has been nursing a resentment and wants to communicate it. To me it is actually a sign of poor communication in the relationship, because the issue should have already been discussed before it got to that point.

mangeons's avatar

People are resistant to it because the words just sound bad. It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to talk, but when someone uses an opening statement like “we need to talk” it easily translates into “you did something bad, and now I’m going to criticize you for it,” which people aren’t usually eager to hear. If you word your statement differently, you’re likely to receive less resistance to it.

ucme's avatar

It’s not the words, more the way they’re delivered. A woman has a certain way of saying the most run of the mill thing & yet send chills down your spine, for me it’s “Dinner’s ready darling” :¬(

dabbler's avatar

It’s a bit domineering, for one thing, to tell someone else “have to”. It’s also on the offensive, strongly suggesting that something is wrong, and just as strongly suggesting that the other party to “we” is the cause.
That can be especially hard to receive from someone you trust, and moreover to whom you are vulnerable in a close relationship.

It’s far more effective to bring up a subject with “I” statements and without blaming.
“Primal” psychology encourages one to figure out first “How do I feel” and “What do I want” in essential terms, and when one is clear about that communicate it.

jca's avatar

As @dabbler suggest, “I am concerned” or “I want to run something by you” or something “I” related is nicer and kinder than “We need to talk” which sounds like something your boss would say.

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