The conversation IS the relationship

By: Sarah Dew Whitsett

I’ve been doing some personal work lately on how to speak authentically. For me this has been a long evolution and one I anticipate will be a lifelong pursuit.

I grew up with the clear message to “be caring, kind, independent, and helpful.” If you behave in this manner you will be liked and loved. If you do not, you are a problem to deal with.

I most certainly didn’t want to be a problem! So, I quickly became completely independent and the first one to jump in and help with a complex or challenging issue. I worried desperately that I may say the wrong thing – that I may offend someone. With this subconscious script I completely detached from who I was and what I wanted and needed.


Because the message was clear. How you feel isn’t important, how you make others feel is.

This is the perfect storm for creating a co-dependent human being. My self-worth was completely wrapped up in how other people were feeling in any moment and I believed that it was my responsibility to make them happy, if I didn’t. I was not likable or worthwhile.

As a 43 year old woman I read that and it still floors me.

Logically I know how bonkers that is. But, the reality is I still work on untangling this.

It shows up for me when in conversation, I am deeply interested in what is happening with the other person but when they ask me how I am, I say fine, or nothing much here.

It’s not that I don’t want to share, but for the life of me I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER.

It’s very frustrating.

Do you want to see something funny?

Ask a co-dependent to come up with a talk topic that is about ONLY WHAT THEY WANT TO DISCUSS AND IS ABOUT THEM.

*** crickets ***

My first answer is always, ‘what do YOU want me to talk about? Just ask and I’ll do it!’

Lord help us.

I have been reading “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott and the concept that has hit me the most is that the conversation is the relationship.

If I am not able to have real conversations with equal give and take then I am not participating equally in the relationship. It’s not about being pleasant or kind. It’s about being honest about what is real.

The conversation is the relationship.

If I am not sharing myself honestly, I am not having real relationships – whether that is one on one or when I am speaking.

Truth is, I end up feeling resentful at times because I am not getting my needs met. But that’s because I’m not asking for them to be met. It’s a vicious cycle.

So, this is where my work is. Figure out what I really want to say and say it.

This, my friends, is not as easy as it would seem.

I usually have some words of wisdom to share but today I am sharing where I am and what I am working on because that is real.

For those of you on the same road, I am with you.


Sarah is cofounder and strategist at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. She’s all action and no beating around the bush. A former intensive care unit nurse, if you look closely, you’ll see her continuing to run triage in her work with clients now. It’s in her bones. Sarah’s ears are tuned to the efficient and effective use of time, money, and effort, and which actions need to be taken in which order to get the result you want.

Get letters like this one, plus updates, insights, and invitations, delivered right to your inbox every week. Here’s the sign-up.

Want to read more?