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Do you avoid having challenging conversations?

Regardless if they are difficult, courageous or growth conversations, we often wonder why they fail for us.

When communicating this aspect, the reality of it all is that we are not prepared. We have not planned for these conversations. The below list shows some of the reasons why our conversations may be challenging.

Difficult Courageous Growth
Inappropriate behaviour Vulnerability Encouraging
Conflict Asking for help Blind spots
Boundary violation Standing in your truth Goals
Managing performance Accountability Discovery
Fear of reaction Exposing one’s thoughts Asking questions
Topic specific Trusting your gut feelings Working with strengths

The key here is that the drivers of these conversations come from different directions.

For example, the driver of a difficult conversation comes from an external event, situation or circumstance. On the other hand, the driver for a courageous conversation is internal, with the feeling and driving force coming from within.

A growth conversation can be external, as feedback to light up your blind spots, or internal, where you know you need to expand on your self-awareness to work more with your strengths.

Mind you, there are grey areas with some of these drivers. Let’s say I were to pull you up on your behaviour. It may be initially a difficult conversation for me and a growth conversation for you.

So, how do we prepare for a courageous conversation?

To highlight the process, I will frame it with a hypothetical situation. For instance, the background may be that my work/life balance is not at a level playing field. In this context, some of the reasons could be:

  • I’m always doing things for others
  • I attend unproductive meetings
  • I help my colleagues with projects that are not even mine
  • I say ‘yes’ all the time
  • I don’t have enough time to complete my own tasks
  • I feel overwhelmed and exhausted, chasing my tail trying to complete my to-do list

First, you have to think long and hard about what the purpose or outcome of this conversation is. It has to be one simple sentence. For instance, the outcome of my courageous conversation could be: I have more time for me and I feel there is balance in my work and life.

Then, write a list down of some of the key points you would like to bring up in the conversation you need to have.

As an example, my list may look like this:

  • Spend more time on self
  • Invest more time with family
  • Devote time to personal and professional development
  • Achieve a healthier life by exercising 30 minutes a day

After, I would then turn those points into questions. Why, you may ask? Well, if you were to sit there and bring up all your sources of frustration, it may come across as negative, pessimistic and blaming others for your actions.

To continue the example, here is how you can turn your points into reflective, solution-focused questions that focus on why, what and how.

Spend more time on self

  • If I were to invest more time on me, what would I be doing?
  • How much time could I invest on me?
  • What will I gain from investing time on me?

Invest more time with family

  • Why is it important to invest time with my family? (If your why is big enough, it will be a tremendous motivator)
  • How can I spend more time with my family?
  • What are my options and how flexible is my work for me to spend more time with my family?

Devote time to personal and professional development

  • What is available for my personal and professional development?
  • How much time can I invest in my personal and professional development?
  • Can I devote time on a weekly basis to upskill so to improve my professional development?

Achieve a healthier life by exercising 30 minutes a day

  • How can I incorporate 30 minutes of exercise a day into my work?
  • What kind of exercise is available for me before or after work?
  • Can I join a gym to exercise 30 minutes a day?

The power of getting to the why is all unconscious. It is why we do or do not do the things that are expected of us. It gives us insight into what the other person’s drivers are, as well as a deeper understanding of the situation without pointing the finger at anyone.

When the time comes to communicate, be conscious to use positive words. While planning your courageous conversation, I highly recommend typing it up and turning any negative words into positive ones for an amicable outcome.

Even the hardest conversations can play out smoothly if you approach them with awareness, compassion and bravery.