Difficult Conversations: Sadness = Guilt (Letty’s story)

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Sadness is a common reaction to difficult conversations. Sadness can look like disappointment, hurt, despair.

How one reacts in the face of sadness varies. Common reactions include:

In a shared space, few people are given the time and permission to experience sadness for as long as they need.  In each of the above stories, the goal is always the same. LET THEM FEEL THE SADNESS.

What you do or say needs to be tailored to your reaction in the face of sadness. Read each story variation and give it a try.


Let's unpack Letty's reaction to sadness with guilt. Guilt causes her to clam up and avoid. The unspoken message here is 'that was a mess, let's never mention it again'.

Guilt and shame can feel very similar in the body - it's normal to mix up the two. How you action once guilt or shame is triggered is fundamentally different.

Guilt requires that you own your role in hurting someone else's feelings. There's a relational aspect of you and me. Expressing remorse and atonement are needed to rebuild trust. In this story, we're assuming Letty feels guilt because she recognizes she had a significant role here.

Shame targets the Self. Here you need to do inner work to soothe and rebuild yourself. Quick soothers include having a self affirmation mantra to respond to the shame, giving yourself a butterfly hug and more ideas from Brene Brown

Back to Letty. Similar to Liv's story, there's an overwhelming stress response. Letty uses a different method to ground herself. She anchors both feet on the ground and feels her feet. This move interrupts Letty's normal MO and gives her emotions time to find balance. When she feels steady, she then tries to rebuild trust.

REMORSE: "This shouldn’t have been a surprise for you, I see that now."

ATONEMENT: "I’m sorry - I could’ve done things differently to prepare you for this comp review."

These are collaborative sentences send the unspoken message, "I'm here. You are important to me".

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