Tomás’s Story

Tomás wants to speak up, but fears speaking up could make matters worse.

As a teenager, I hid a lot of things from my parents out of fear of being rejected. One of them was the fact that I am bisexual, which is a very taboo topic in the country where I grew up. Colombians are primarily Catholic, and my family was raised with Catholic principles. To say that opening up to my parents about my sexuality was a crucial conversation is an understatement. It has proven to be THE most crucial conversation of my whole life. I was trapped by fear for decades, too scared to have an open discussion that could end up having terrible consequences.

As I approached the conversation, I was shaking, my hands were sweating, my whole body felt tight. All of my signals from my style under stress were triggered. I wanted to run away. But then I remembered my purpose for the conversation.

I wanted to trust my parents because I love them, and their support means the world to me. I didn’t want to keep lying to them or have to keep acting in front of them. I also wanted them to feel trusted and respected by me. I wanted them to know what I was going through, and I wanted them to be able to give me their honest advice. I wanted our relationship to be strengthened by tearing down the wall that was between us so we could finally be open, honest, and trusting—just like when I was younger.

Then there was what I did not want, which was tricky. I didn’t want to get into an argument—which, at the time, was a frequent occurrence. I didn’t want them to feel offended by the fact that I had been hiding so many things from them for so many years. I didn’t want them to overreact, and I definitely didn’t want to get into an argument involving our differing opinions on religion, which this conversation could easily have triggered. Religion had already been a source of nasty arguments in the past.

So, when we finally had the conversation, I started with heart. I established mutual respect and mutual purpose by saying how much I loved them and how much my relationship with them mattered to me, and how I could tell our relationship had been strained due to a lack of trust and openness on my part. I used contrasting statements to ensure they understood the reason I hadn’t told them before was not because I didn’t want to tell them or that I didn’t care about their opinion; it was because of how much I love them and how afraid I was of losing their approval and support.

They listened to me carefully as I told them my story and explained what I had been going through. After I finished talking, they told me they were in shock, and that they had never expected this. I could tell they weren’t excited to hear the news, which I had expected. However, they were extremely happy that I trusted them and had taken the first step towards healing our relationship, which was hurting them a lot. My lack of trust was driving me away from my parents and they were suffering because they felt like they were losing me. They ended the conversation by telling me that they supported me fully and that they didn’t care what I did as long as it made me happy.

Today, my relationship with my parents is the best it has ever been and I feel like I can come to them for advice about anything. Since we had that first crucial conversation, we’ve had many others, and with each one our relationship has strengthened. I could have never imagined the life-changing power of Crucial Conversations. The authors were right when they wrote that crucial conversations can greatly affect your quality of life for good or bad. My quality of life has improved in ways I can’t explain. I share Crucial Conversations with anyone who is open to it, and people are always asking me what it is that allows me to handle conversations that very few people even attempt to have. They think it’s a trick, or something I was born with. But I never had the ability before I read the book, so I know for a fact it is a skill that can be learned and mastered.

Having the ability to hold those difficult conversations (especially those I’ve been running away from for years) has had a tremendous, positive impact in my life. It has improved my relationships and positively impacted the people around me. Had I not had the tools, and if those crucial conversations had gone badly, I can only imagine where I would be now. ◼

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The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the storyteller and do not reflect the view of VitalSmarts.

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