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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.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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