Is There Something You Genuinely Need To Say?
Every day we find ourselves having to work through issues that come up in our relationships. Whether it be a difficult boss who seems to be devoid of management skills or a colleague on a school committee who dominates conversation (getting everyone off track in the process), opportunities to express your concerns or opinions are never too far away.
Sometimes we make the assessment that it’s really not worth our energy to put an issue on the table. We decide instead to just work around the issue or the person. But other times we do need to speak up and assert ourselves. Of course there is always some risk involved with that – risk of an awkward conversation, of causing offense, ruffling feathers or being criticized ourselves – but the question is, what’s the cost to you when you don’t speak up?
If there is something you genuinely want to say, chances are there is someone who genuinely needs to hear it.
Next Friday is my 16th wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband Andrew (yes, I know you are thinking “how can a twenty-something woman be married that long?”). If there is one crucial lesson I learned very early on in our relationship, it’s that if there is something on my mind that is causing me to feel upset in some way, however insignificant or petty I think it is, then it’s crucial to find a way to share it in a way that doesn’t lay blame, but lays it on the table. . . to discuss and to resolve. It’s also my professional experience that when an issue is causing a person some grief (whether frustration or resentment) and there is something they genuinely want to say, then chances are there is someone who genuinely needs to hear it.
While being interviewed on a local TV station last week, the conversation ended up on just this topic (as I’ve begun to learn, whatever topic I prepare for an interview, it always heads another direction). Click here to watch that interview. There are obviously a lot of nuances that need to be taken into account before embarking on what I call a “courageous conversation” — too many for the interview and too many for this newsletter. But one important thing you must always think about before entering into a sensitive or difficult conversation (or with a sensitive or difficult person!) is to first identify the highest intention you have for the conversation. What is it that you are ultimately hoping to achieve from it that will serve both you and the person you are speaking to?
The intention you have for your conversation will determine the result you get from it.
Too often our ego, with its insatiable need to be right and come out the winner (or to avoid looking wrong or being cast a loser), will have us going into a conversation for all the wrong reasons. We want to let the other person know they are a dim-wit or perhaps just a self-absorbed narcissist. Or maybe we aren’t quite that mad and we just want to put them back in their spot. If you find yourself going in to a conversation for anything remotely resembling these reasons then one thing is guaranteed, the conversation is not going to produce a positive result in the longer term. However, if you put your ego in its box and get clear about the higher purpose you are trying to achieve from the conversation (one that resonates with you and reflects the level of integrity you are committed to living with) then what you say and how you say it will produce a completely different result.
As I wrote in my book Find Your Courage (in the chapter “The Courage to Speak Up”), the intention you have going in to a conversation (however difficult or contentious) will have a profound impact on the way someone responds to your words. So, who is it that you need to have a courageous conversation with? What is the higher intention you have for the conversation? How can you approach the subject in a way that doesn’t make the other person wrong, but that simply seeks to express your concerns and ultimately resolve the issue?
Quality relationships (at work or home) grow from quality conversations.
Your relationships exist in conversation. The quality of your conversations directly impacts the quality of the relationships you have. While speaking up about sensitive issues may never be easy, just know that you have all the resources you need to speak up, do honor to what is true to you and in the process, be of service to the other person. So please, don’t tiptoe around any issue that has come to mind as you read this (particularly if it’s one you’ve been festering on). Make the decision to assert yourself, to reclaim the power that your doubt and fears have been wielding and, with the highest of intentions, to put that issue on the table.
Until next time, live boldly, shine brightly and be courageous in your conversations!