Today’s topic is one that I know is really hard for most people, yet it is one that everyone has to confront throughout their lives in order to advance, become a better friend, family member or leader. Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult to engage in, but they can be the most life changing.
I am Leigh Wilson, and this is Focus Forward Business Design.
I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good idea that like myself you are not one that particularly enjoys the thought of having that uncomfortable discussion with someone. It may be your partner, your teenager, a co-worker or even a boss. It just doesn’t matter who it is…it’s just not something that we look forward to, and in fact, will oftentimes push it back, hoping that the situation will resolve itself, or convince ourselves that it's not as bad as we are imagining. What I can tell you, is if you have gotten to the point of thinking about it, and making up excuses not to have the conversation, then it warrants the time and the effort.
So, what makes us so hesitant and downright sick to our stomachs to have these conversations? It’s fairly simple…. fear. We build this event up in our heads to something that is often much larger than it actually needs to be, so we have ourselves scared to death of the outcome. We are scared of losing someone, of being fired, of having our child shutdown or rebel, or making the situation worse or even more uncomfortable. Those are all real fair concerns if we don’t prepare and handle the subject tactfully and with respect to the other person. Unfortunately, what most of us don’t visualize is what the outcome looks like when everything goes just as it should. After all, you know the conversation is needed so that a change can happen…. right? You are not going into this chat with the goal of making things worse, so why would we visualize the worst possible outcome? Because many people are fear based…our minds have been taught to be fear based due to prior experiences in our life. We need to stop and reprogram ourselves to envision how amazing the end result is going to be after the tough conversation. You could even go so far as to be excited to talk to this person and have a fresh beginning to whatever the problem may be. Consider it a strategy session like you would with a team or family planning a new project…the important thing here is that it cannot be one sided. Everyone’s opinions or thoughts matter and they need to know that and feel that. This is what keeps things moving forward so no one person feels attacked.
We have all been in the position of being called into what we considered a superior’s “office”. It could be the principal, the boss, your parents living room or a meeting with your spouse or partner. We walked into the room with our stomach in knots as the invitation was likely not sent with flowers and a pretty invite on linen paper. More likely it sounded something like this “Leigh, we need to talk, please be in my office at 3:00. Or it could be this…you walk into the room and are asked to sit down; we need to talk. No warning at all, just boom let’s do this. Immediately, you are put on the defense. This is not the way to a constructive, forward moving conversation.
Let’s rewrite how these much needed, potentially charged conversations could go. I am going to give you 3 strategies to help you make difficult conversations, opportunities for growth and advancement. Then I am going to give you a bonus of a few tips on talking to teens since we know that can show up as a totally different audience. So, let’s get into this…. take out your journals and be ready to take some notes. I encourage you as we are going through this that if something resonates with you and your mind starts wandering to a personal situation, pause this video and take the opportunity to write out some things that are coming to mind. This will give you the chance to go back and look at those as you are preparing for a conversation in your life that you think may be a little sticky or worse yet, you have been avoiding. Then continue on with the video, in this way you are able to workshop this a bit and really make it relevant to you and improve your world.
I promised you a bonus….
What about those teens – I bet that if your teenage years were anything like mine you can remember a few times…probably more than 1 or 2 that you were not the model child and may have been on the other side of a conversation with your parents or another adult that was not very comfortable. If you were the typical teen, you were likely not listening with an open mind, and had a million other things going through your head of which were probably not directed favorably towards the adult. Well, now things have flipped, and you get to be the adult on the other side of the fence, the supposed all knowing wise one. I have been through this side as well, and all I can say is that I now have more respect for those adults that tried to correct my mislead actions, because I now know that they were as frustrated and lost as the teens…The difference is the adults have learned that they themselves still have so much more to learn, and the teens often times think that they are oh so wise.
This is not meant to talk down to our teenage population, as I truly believe that they have so much more to offer up than 90% of the population gives them credit for. However, we as adults must appreciate that having a discussion with a young adult requires different skills than with our co-workers or our life partners. Yet, we don’t give them the credit of being as wise as they truly are, but we expect them to hold difficult conversations at the same level as an adult. By doing this we are sending a mixed message that needs to be clearer and more concise. Are they children or adults, we don’t get it both ways? There is the problem – they are neither.
The strategies that we discussed early need to be a part of our arsenal for our tough talks with teens but let’s look at a couple other things we can add in to make the end result a positive one for both.
I know this had a lot of paths that we went down, but I hope that you are able to pull out a couple of nuggets that will help you the next time that you have to have that difficult conversation. Just remember that avoidance never makes it go away and that the end result to most conversations handled well will result in growth and advancement.
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And as always, remember…It is your choice to Focus Forward!
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