As I was planning to write this blog I was watching an IG live video from the one and only Brene Brown – what a superstar she is! (The quote above is hers). She was talking about her new book, called Dare to Lead. She was showing us the different elements of what it takes to be an exceptional leader, and they are; brave work, tough conversations and whole hearts – how perfect!
Now being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a leader of a country or a company, it also means being a leader in your life – leading yourself – being the one who designs your life, rather than allowing life to happen to you.
I’m so pleased Brene agrees that having difficult conversations is a key part of being a leader in your life. The difficult conversations we usually need to have are with our partners, our family, our friends and our work colleagues – not all at once hopefully! They are difficult because we care about the other person and sometimes it feels like there’s a lot at stake, e.g. having a difficult conversation with your boss could make you feel like your job is on the line, as you’re not just ‘towing the line’ and being a ‘yes (wo)man’.
Why is it so important to have these conversations? And to practice and be good at them? Because relationships are central to our lives, our sense of fulfilment and can lead us to feel wonderful, and terrible. It is important that we communicate our boundaries, our needs and our feelings in order for our relationships to be healthy and supportive.
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of not having a difficult conversation with someone close to you, putting it off because it’s awkward or uncomfortable, or both. As time passes your mind is chattering about ‘the thing’ and you start to build up a little resentment. Your mental and emotional space and energy is being taken up by all this noise, when it could be filled with possibility, imagination and inspired creation. Which would you rather?
So having the conversations clears that space for you, and it honours the other person by allowing them to take the part in the monologue that otherwise only happens in your head, or worse it becomes gossipy and judgey when you talk to other people about it. None of that makes you or the other person feel good, because just because you’re not saying it, don’t think they aren’t feeling the vibes you’re putting out.
As an Intuitive Life Coach I teach my clients a set of principles and steps to follow when preparing for a difficult conversation. Doing the preparation may seem laborious, however it will set you up in the best possible way to: a) get a good outcome from the conversation and b) have you both feeling loved and creating deeper connection, rather than separation.
The 2 main principles of having good, difficult conversations are:
- Vulnerability (another Brene favourite!)
As you are the leader of your life showing up to your difficult conversations being vulnerable is essential, it allows the other person to connect with you and a heart level which means they will much more likely hear you and not immediately jump to defensiveness. Honesty is crucial too because there is no point in skirting around the issue, or sugar coating it, as the message will not get through and the outcome will not be effective.
The steps to prepare your difficult conversation well – these steps are to be written out to get yourself very clear on what you’re saying and ensuring there’s no blame or shame:
- Ask the other person for their permission to have the conversation, if now is not good, set up a time.
- Be vulnerable – how are you feeling about it? Are you feeling nervous or scared of the outcome? Embarrassed or upset?
- Say what you want to say – be kind and loving, no blame and shame, but also be clear and honest – don’t soften it so much the message is not received.
- Ask the other person if it made sense to them? Do they need you to explain anything.
- Allow them to talk – ask them how they feel? What their thoughts are and really listen…
- Repeat back their points and feelings – this is called active listening and it shows the other person that you have really listened and care about their side of the story.
- Ask for the outcome you would like and together negotiate a solution or plan going forward.
- Thank them for having the conversation.
Below is an example of how a difficult conversation plan might go:
Hey Sam, there’s something I’d really like to talk to you about, is now a good time?
I’ve been feeling very nervous about bringing this up with you because I feel silly and I’m worried about what you might think about me or how you might react.
When we spend time together, or go on dates, it upsets me when you spend so much time on your phone. It makes me feel like you’re not having such a good time with me and maybe even find me boring. I feel like you’d rather be somewhere else, with someone else and that makes me feel sad and bad about myself.
Does that make sense?
So you have got into the habit of checking your phone regularly at work because you need to respond quickly when issues come up, and you sometimes don’t even realise you’re doing it. You didn’t know it made me feel like that and don’t want me to feel bad. Is that right?
Would you be open to switching your phone off, or keeping it in your bag/ pocket, when are out together? I would really appreciate that.
Thank you so much for your openness in having this conversation with me, I feel so much better.
Once you’ve prepared it’s time to be brave and go have the conversation, it will feel scary, so feel the fear and do it anyway. You don’t need to follow your plan word for word, none of us are perfect and there is no need to even try to be. Your unique way of expressing yourself, with vulnerability and honesty, is perfect and this tool will deepen your connections with those close to you, freeing up your energy and cultivating relationships to enable you to be a fabulous leader in your life.