Recently I wrote about Rumble Starters, a list of phrases compiled by the brilliant Brene’ Brown with the intention of helping people initiate tough—but necessary—conversations.
Interestingly, I got a mixed reaction to that piece. Some people expressed appreciation for the information, but others told me bluntly, “I’m still too nervous to even think about having a difficult conversation.”
There are some people who love conflict. They almost view it as a sport and engage easily and frequently. Others, including some of my clients, back away from conflict. They’re afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings or damaging a relationship, and they need a little support in voicing the truth and asking for what they need. They want support in opening the conversation as well as holding their own once the conversation gets started.
In Defense of Conflict
Here’s what I know: the amount of energy you spend NOT having the difficult conversation is 1000x greater than it would take to courageously step up and get it done.
For those of us who do not enjoy conflict, I will simply say that avoiding conflict is a conflict—it’s a conflict within yourself. You are not aligned with your true self when you avoid something important. Misalignment with our values and our integrity can manifest itself over time in the form of stress, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, or another challenging emotion.
So let’s get it over with already!
Here are two ways to prepare yourself for the courageous conversation that will offer relief, empowerment, confidence, and so much more.
#1: Take the Focus Off You
Most people spend tremendous amounts of energy worrying about how hard a difficult conversation is for them rather than focusing on what it will take for the receiver to really hear and understand the information they want to share.
Many of you reading this are familiar with the language of Insights Discovery, you’ll recognize that someone with a lot of Earth Green energy cares a lot about the feelings of others. But consider the person they’re engaging with: if the recipient has a lot of Fiery Red energy, he or she tends not to take things personally and will want to get right to the point. In this case, I can almost guarantee that energy spent worrying about the recipient’s feelings will be wasted—the Red energy just wants to hear the message, take appropriate action, and move on.
How can you shift your message so you are being heard in a way that works for the other person? Do you need more facts and data? Perhaps ensure there is plenty of time for the other person to process the conversation?
Give yourself a break and focus less on how you feel and more on what the other person needs.
#2: Envision the Best Outcome
As humans, we are wired to go to the negative. We naturally tend to dwell on everything that is, or could go, wrong; and this will especially come up in the face of a daunting conversation!
Why not shift your focus to what is right or what is working with an eye toward what could be even better?
For example, you could say, “Sure, I love that we’ve been able to partner closely on the XYZ account. I really appreciate your ability to keep us on track and meet our deadlines. I’d love to talk with you about what else is working well and what could be even better. Would this be a good time to talk about that?”
Who doesn’t want to have this conversation!? I do! In this conversation, we will both get a chance to talk about what we want to be different or better, and it will improve the working relationship for both of us.
For some people, it can be really scary to step into a difficult conversation. The value in finding a way to do it anyway is that you’ll experience improved self-confidence and clarity within your relationships. Not only that, the people around you will begin to trust you more because they know that you will tell them the truth!
This week, I encourage you to try these strategies when you need to have a difficult conversation. Let me know how it goes!
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash