Let's Have An Uncomfortable Conversation
April 19, 2016
I will admit it. For years, I was a person who hid behind email to have uncomfortable "conversations." My signature move was to wait until the very end of the workday to press send, then go home and then have the sick feeling in my stomach when the other person replied that evening. In fact, I typically wouldn't even open the reply until I got into the office the next day if I anticipated that the response was something that would bring me down. I didn't want it to ruin my evening.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Sometimes, we'll refuse to even speak our truth through email, preferring to shut down entirely, put our head in the sand, pretend nothing is happening, and let the feelings fester. The downside here is that not only are you not being authentic, you will just let the pressure build up until you snap at someone and unload your feelings in a way that is angry and disrespectful.
Yes, I've been guilty of that approach in the past as well.
Neither of these strategies will lead to a resolution of conflict or feelings of relief for anyone involved. Email and text communication can often make a situation worse, as the other party will sometimes misinterpret your tone and message, causing them to leap to their own conclusions about your intent. On a subconscious level, you might even like this, because it allows you to play the victim if you get a snippy, written response and tell yourself that you are "right."
On the flip side, suppressing feelings of anger to the point of eventually blowing a gasket will just create more drama and lead to the blame game about who is really out of line.
So how can you face the tough conversations in a healthy, productive way?
The first step lies in knowing the result that you really want and then being able to express that from a place of heart-centered truth.
I know, it's much easier said than done. It requires an enormous amount of courage. It requires us to set boundaries. It requires us to be bold about standing in our power.
And perhaps the scariest part? It requires us to be prepared to walk away from a situation that is no longer serving us, or even run the risk of having someone choose to walk away from us.
So how do we create a game plan that allows us to be both truthful and respectful? Here are 4 keys:
- Know the result that you are trying to get to. If you are annoyed with someone or something, but can't articulate the reasons why, then you are setting yourself up for failure.
- Get real with yourself and create a list of what needs to change to produce the desired result.
- Have a little empathy and try to see the situation from the other person's point of view. Yes, I know that you think YOU are right and THEY are the problem, and that might be true. But by simply understanding their position, you are increasing your chances of a successful outcome.
- Meet with the other person face to face. Don't call them. Don't email or text. Thank them for agreeing to meet with you. Really make an effort to let them feel that they are being seen and heard. Repeat their concerns back to them and then respectfully and calmly express yourself from a place of respect and honesty.
I used these tools when I had to tell a former boss about why I was not interested in renewing my contract with the company and wanted to look for another gig. As I walked into the breakfast meeting, I was terrified to speak my truth. Would they think I was being a jerk? Would they just fire me on the spot? Would they bury me to other people within the company? Was I going to burn a bridge?
But a funny thing happens when you speak from a heart-centered place. People respect your honesty. I simply explained that while I loved the company, it was time to move on. I spoke honestly, respectfully, and from the heart about the factors that led me to this conclusion. In response, my boss couldn't have been nicer and even offered to move me to other markets within the company. He commended me at the end of the breakfast for the way in which I handled myself.
As I left that meeting, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt that I had released the negative energy that I had been holding onto and had created space for more things that would bring me happiness. By speaking my truth, I put myself in the driver's seat to creating a better situation.
So what uncomfortable conversation have you been avoiding? It might be with a co-worker, a friend, or a loved one. Is it time to rip the band aid off and just speak the truth? The sense of peace that you seek is waiting on the other side of the discomfort.
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