Meta talks are necessary for most important topics. Therapy actually works on this concept: you see a therapist (see Chapter 3) and what is expected of you is that you talk beyond the surface of the topics.
There is no one specific way to have these conversations other than to invite the other person to have it with you. Then ask questions about the topic at hand until you both are clear on how each other is thinking about it and processing it. A few common times when Meta talks are particularly helpful are when there’s “an elephant in the room” or when the future of a relationship is ambiguous.
The Elephant in the Room
If everyone is aware of a topic but no one is willing to discuss it, we say “there’s an elephant in the room.” That elephant can only be ignored for so long. Eventually, if the elephant is ignored, it will stifle relationships and put larger and larger distances between people because the tension around the topic only increases. A meta talk to discuss this underlying tension will bring it into the open where it can be dealt with and alleviated.
If a man wants to have a baby and his wife does not, and they both know how each other is feeling but never discuss it, then tension will grow in their relationship, always waiting for the other to complain or possibly even end the relationship. That concern will only grow until it explodes and causes serious damage. However, if they can both acknowledge that they have different ideas about children, then they can start working toward a compromise. Perhaps she doesn’t want children now but may change her mind in the future. Maybe his longing for a child could be fulfilled with a pet in the interim.
Where is Our Relationship Going?
Whether a romantic, work, or professional, such as between a trainer at the gym and yourself, sometimes the two people involved have different ideas about where the relationship is going in the future. Without having a meta talk to discuss where each member of the partnership sees the relationship heading, possibly conflicting expectations will be set and consequently unmet by both partners. The seeds of discontent will grow until serious problems inflict the relationship.