Difficult conversations are a hot topic and many employers are seeking our help in this area. It seems evident that few people look forward to these kinds of conversations and in fact many will avoid, pass off or not handle these conversations at all. What if we approached what we believe to be a “difficult” conversation with a mindset that it’s a “courageous” conversation? One where we can learn, grow and foster relationships? How do you approach difficult conversations and what strategies might help you tackle them with ease? Here is just one idea…
What would you do?
I was recently watching a Super Soul Sunday segment featuring Maya Angelou. Oprah and Maya were discussing a time when Maya hosted a party and one of the guests said something racist. Maya stopped the party, asked who came with this guest and told them to leave, stating “they were not going to spread poison in her house.” Oprah marvelled at the courage she showed in stopping the party and not letting this behaviour/conversation carry on. Maya replied that she wasn’t always that courageous; it was a skill she had learned over time. She said it was like going to the gym, you don’t start lifting the heaviest weight and run 20 km, you start out small and build up until you can do it.
What if we helped people have courageous conversations instead of referring to them as difficult conversations? Having these conversations are learned behaviours that take practice. We often hear employees say, “Why didn’t they just talk to me?” “Why was it so hard?” Are these hard because we are not taught how to have courageous conversations? Do we simply need more practice?
We believe employers have an opportunity to foster a conversational culture within their organizations. Consider: what are you doing to equip your supervisors, managers and employees with the tools they require to embrace the concept of Courageous Conversations? Each person has their own set of experiences that dictate the level of courage they have to either have a difficult/courageous conversation or be the receiver of these conversations.
Changing our mindset
Even the word “difficult” makes it sound hard from the beginning. If we were to shift our language to “courageous” it may feel like less of a burden. Maybe people will be more understanding when the tough conversations come up and the person who has to deliver isn’t comfortable. Consider: how can we support them in this journey to courage?
There will always be difficult conversations to be had, but if we have courageous people, leaders, role models that are delivering these conversations we can rest assured the conversations will take place.
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