Be brave enough
to start a conversation that matters!
– Dau Voire
We’ve all had one, and in all likelihood we’ve been on both the giving and receiving end. It’s called a courageous conversation, and in most cases it’s not something to which most of us look forward. Why is that? The reasons vary but one of the most commonly cited is fear. This emotion is present in these conversations for any number of reasons. When on the receiving end, we often fear losing something such as position or status. In another situation, we may fear the loss of something intangible such as the need to acknowledge an error, or agreeing to compromising our position. When initiating the discussion, often our greatest fear is that the person on the other end will react with anger. But what happens when the person on the other end of the courageous conversation is us?
We all like to believe that we are in a state of continuous improvement; that the experiences of our lives and the passage of time will result in an improved version of the original. Sorry, that’s not going to happen! To improve, to become better, we need constructive feedback from employers, mentors, family, friends and others. But equally important, we need to hear it from the person who knows us best; sometimes we need to have a courageous conversation with ourselves.
Can you think of a time when things didn’t turn out the way you expected or hoped? Maybe the job offer or promotion you were seeking didn’t materialize. Perhaps the contract you were counting on didn’t get signed. Or worse yet, a challenging conversation you had with a colleague went horribly wrong. When things don’t go the way we plan, we often seek answers, but too often we look for reasons that are external; someone else had the inside track for the promotion, an unanticipated event compromised the contract, or the colleague wasn’t ready for the conversation. Perhaps we would be better served by having a tough conversation with the person we see in the mirror.
It begins with planning. Knowing what to ask and being prepared to ask yourself challenging questions is not always as easy as it sounds. One way of preparing for a difficult self-conversation is to thoughtfully consider the following as the basis for your discussion:
What do I really want? This serves to identify what is driving you. What is the need or desire that is being fulfilled? What must be achieved for you to feel complete?
Why is this important? Are your actions for personal gain or to foster something bigger than you. How will achievement serve to better an organization or enhance your relationships with others?
What are the strengths I bring to the table? We all have talents, but sometimes, in the face of difficulty we lose sight of them? How can you better leverage your talents?
What is holding you back? It’s important to know our strengths, but it is even more important to acknowledge those areas that compromise our effectiveness. Where is your greatest opportunity for growth and what or who can help you address this issue?
They are called courageous conversations because they cause discomfort. They serve to promote learning and expand comfort zones. By avoiding them we do a great disservice to those with whom we might otherwise engage and provide a wonderful growth opportunity. No less is true of the discussions we must have with ourselves. Why not take a courageous step and schedule a conversation this week; it’s not that difficult and you will thank yourself later.