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7 Keys to Having a Courageous Conversation With Anyone

7 Keys to Having a Courageous Conversation With Anyone

         “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment”  Dorothy Nevill

Do you have issues in your professional and personal relationships that are weighing you down? Is your boss asking too much of you but you don’t know how to to let him know that you are not coping? Do you have questions that you want to ask your partner, but you are too afraid to ask? If the answer is yes – then it is about time you had a “Courageous Conversation” – a conversation where you  speak up and express how you feel about these issues that are weighing you down.

There have been many times in my life when I should have had a courageous conversation but I didn’t. One of the main reasons why I didn’t was because I didn’t know how. When I discovered these 7 keys to having a courageous conversation I found a framework that helped me to have a “Courageous Conversation”, in which I was able to express and articulate my thoughts and opinions in a way that avoided awkward situations, quickly cleared up misunderstandings and created positive relationships in my life.

According to the Oxford Dictionary Courage is derived from the Latin word Cor which means heart. In Old French there is the word Corage which denotes the heart as the centre of all feelings. The following 7 keys will help you to be courageous and have conversations in which you are able to express your deepest feelings. A Courageous Conversation will lighten your heart and your life.

These 7 keys have helped me to find the courage to have conversations that I was too afraid to have before.

1. Deal with your Fears

Fear is one of the main reasons that stop you from having a Courageous Conversation. Fear has many disguises. One way through which you can recognise fear is to identify excuses like “the situation is not that bad” or “maybe the problem is not worth mentioning”. These thoughts are dangerous because here fear tries to keep you from being courageous.

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Self Limiting Beliefs fuel fear and it is important that you get clear as to what these specific self limiting beliefs are. Maybe you fear rejection, maybe you fear that you could make it worse, or maybe you feel vulnerable. The list of excuses goes on and on.

There are two questions I ask myself when I’m dealing with fear:

1. What are the consequences if I do nothing?

2. Am I willing to accept these consequences?

To be honest there have been a couple of times when I have said “Yes I am ok with the consequences of not having the conversation”. The outcome was that the relationship did not improve and that the nagging feeling of resentment grew. The outcomes from not having courages conversations never served me well.

2.  Deal with your EGO

Sort out your ego. It can get in the way of being objective and achieving a solution targeting the good of a relationship, not you, the individual. In a Courageous Conversation you express your feelings and are true to yourself. If your ego is controlling your heart and if you are protecting your ego you will focus on being right instead of being true. Your conversation will be about your frustration or anger towards the other person. If the conversation is about you and your sense of entitlement then the conversation will not end well. I guarantee that if you are focussed on pleasing your ego it will go down hill. The other person will feel attacked and will fight back. There will be no resolution.

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Once you get your ego sorted and you are authentic about sharing your thoughts and feelings, you will be more open to listening to the other person’s side of the story. Remember that a Courageous Conversation aims to seek resolution for the benefit of the relationship rather than the individual. When you speak true to yourself, the message will be received and felt by the other person.

“The single most important thing you can do is to shift your internal stance from “I understand” to “Help me understand.” Everything else follows from that. . . Douglas Stone

3. Know WHY you want to have a Courageous Conversation.

Before you start a Courageous Conversation be very clear as to WHY you are having it. What is the purpose and what do you hope to achieve? Once you have sorted out the WHY you will be able to decide what the “risks” of having the conversation are. If you decide to have the conversation, you need to clear up the following 3 things:

  1. What you are trying to ACHIEVE?
  2. What you are LISTENING for?
  3. What gives you the RIGHT to initiate the conversation?

4. Be Prepared to Experience Discomfort

In a Courageous Conversation you have to be prepared to discuss the “undiscussable” – the issues that you don’t want to deal with, but that you know you have to face. Also, the other person may not like what you are saying and may not want to hear it at all. After having sorted out the reason why you are having the conversation, you have to think about how you should set up the meeting. The first step to minimising the feeling of discomfort is to GET AGREEMENT from the other person on having the conversation.

Once you have agreement, begin the conservation by telling your side of the story which includes the following 3 points:

  1. WHY you want to have the conversation
  2. WHAT the issue is that you want to discuss
  3. HOW this issue is affecting you

In telling your story you are opening up the opportunity for a dialogue and you invite the other person to join in. If the response is favourable the next step for the two of you is to start exploring each other’s stories and to work out how to move forward.

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5. Be Real about Your Expectations

We can prepare and plan for a Courageous Conversation. However we can not control what the outcome will be. We are only in control of ourselves. Most people are more comfortable with keeping old problems unresolved rather than working on a solution, so you may not be able to find a common ground. Be prepared for that. If the potential solution requires the other person to make some significant changes then they may need time to reflect about the conversation. So don’t expect that by having a courageous conversation you will get immediate results. Be realistic about your expectations.

6. Set the Emotional Tone for the Conversation

The more sensitive the issue is, the more likely it is that your emotions are raw and exposed. If the issue is emotional for you, then you need to make sure that you are calm enough to be clear about what you want to say.

In this situation it is a good idea to write out what you want to say and practise with a friend or supporter. Getting your emotions under control enables you to listen objectively to the other person and to respond calmly. With preparation and practice you are less likely to allow your emotions to take over. If you do get upset and find it difficult to continue then you have to suggest that you both take a break. Get commitment to reschedule the meeting for another time.

The big three blind spots are tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. The listener is very aware of these, the talker is not.”  Douglas Stone

7. Avoid these 7 Key Mistakes at ALL Cost

The intent of a Courageous Conversation is to look forward to solutions not backwards to blame. It is also about speaking the truth, being transparent and vulnerable. This is very hard and chances are that you will mess it up sometimes. That’s ok, Don’t give up. Keep going, keep practicing. Like with a sporting activity which is new to you, the more you practice the better you get! There are however 7 key mistakes which will turn a Courageous Conversation into a toxic conversation!

  1. Talking too much
  2. Having an unclear message
  3. Not thinking about the other person’s feelings
  4. Starting the conversation by saying “So how is it going?”
  5. Trying to oversimplify the issue .If it was simple then it wouldn’t be difficult to deal with!
  6. Over-rehearsing and memorising the script – this will block you from being real
  7. To get caught off guard and to lose sight of the goal. When this happens we tend to fall back into our defence mode or if it’s really bad we go back to “combat mode” and it can turn ugly! If it does get really difficult remember to come back to the 7 keys – keep your content clear, stay calm, keep your tone neutral and your EGO in check.

A Courageous Conversation is a tool that helps to resolve relational conflict. The 7 keys help you to prepare to have successful courageous conversation. You may not always get the outcomes you want, however, if you keep having courageous conversations your relationships in your professional and personal life will thrive and prosper.

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So go be COURAGEOUS and have that conversation you know you need to have but are too afraid to.

Come to the edge, He said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, He said.
They came. He pushed them

And they flew . . .” 

— Guillaume Apollinaire French Poet

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown And Get More Out of Life How to Persevere (And Get Ahead!) When the Going Gets Tough Anxiety Coping Mechanisms That Work When You’re Stressed to the Max If You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life, Read These 5 Strategies 10 Things You Can Do Now to Change Your Life Forever

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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