7 keys to a courageous conversationBy Margie Warrell | Jul 17, 15 09:00 AM
If you avoid conflict like the plague, you’re not alone – but the ability to have a courageous conversation is crucial to our success. Margie Warrell teaches us how to speak up …
1. Decide what’s at stake
Let’s face it, in the short term it’s often easier to opt for the path of least resistance ad say nothing. But over time, when you stay silent when your voice needs to be heard, you run the greater risk of living in regret or resentment or both. So every courageous conversation begins with your decision that speaking your truth is more important than avoiding the discomfort and risk of doing so. You have to be able to clearly answer this question: For the sake of what am I willing to speak up?
For your integrity, your dreams, people you care about, your self-respect, your potential, your future? For the sake of never having to wonder, ‘What if?’ You decide.
Until are clear about what you value more than what you get from sticking with the status quo – comfort, pride, safety, predictability, familiarity, money, time, popularity, approval – you’ll be without any compelling reason to put it at risk.
2. Start with heart
What comes from the heart lands on the heart. So, having decided what’s at stake, get clear about your highest intention for the other person, for yourself and for those your relationship impacts. When you enter a conversation to create a better outcome rather than to prove you’re right or to make someone else wrong, your words land differently from when your pride, anger or ego are running the show.
3. Find the common interest
While you may want something different from someone else, if you keep zooming up, there will be things that you both want and concerns you both share. Speak from that place: from a mutual goal or concern you both want and care about. For example, ‘I know we both care about making this [project, marriage, team] work and feel [valued, supported, respected] in it’. Likewise, if you want to ask someone to do something to help you, be sure to frame it in such a way that they can see how it will ultimately benefit them also.
4. Express your opinion as just that
When you express your opinion as though it can be the only right one (and all others are wrong), you’re guaranteed to get others offside. Rather, express your opinion as just that – your opinion – and then share how it makes you feel using ‘I’ statements. Feelings are never wrong or right; they just are. So it removes judgement. For example, ‘I feel undervalued and embarrassed when I am cut off midsentence in front of others’ will get a better response than, ‘You don’t value me and always embarrass me.’ One shares; the other accuses.
5. Distinguish the person from their behaviour
If you’re unhappy about what someone has done or failed to do, be careful to disentangle who they are from what they’ve done. Someone may have acted thoughtlessly, but by labelling them as thoughtless, careless or cavalier you imply they can’t be any other way. Instead of boxing people in, use language in ways that leave open the possibility for positive change.
6. Act big when others act small
Emotions are highly contagious, so when someone is being small-minded, mean or just outright rude, resist the temptation to respond in kind. No matter who it is, what they did or how strongly you hold them in the wrong (because, damn it, they are!) you can never go wrong by acting with the character they currently seem to lack. It’s rarely easy to swallow, but it’s those people who annoy and upset you the most who have the most to teach you.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to get pulled into ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’ conversations, stone throwing and name calling. But to what end? Keep your conversations focused on the future and better outcomes you want to create. How would you like things to be in the future? What needs to start happening? What needs to stop? Be as specific as you can. In the interim, you may simply need to agree to stay in dialogue and navigate the best path forward.
Margie Warrell draws on her background in psychology, business and coaching to help people live and lead with greater purpose, resilience and courage. Learn about her latest book Brave and sign up for her Train The Brave Challenge.
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