We Need A Courageous Conversation

Posted on 04. Feb, 2012 by in Blog, Lead From Within, Leadership Development, Personal Development

What do you do when you have an employee who is great at getting results, meeting their targets, and great with customers, but when it comes to their team, they are abrasive, abusive and condescending?

What do you do when you’re in a relationship and your partner says they will call, and they don’t? They say they will show up, but they don’t. They say they will be there for you, and they are not. Worse yet, this has been going on for months…

What do you do when you’re in a meeting with your direct report who does all the talking all the time, and never asks for input or feedback? What if your employee is not a team player and it’s really hurting morale?

It is time for an intervention. What kind of intervention? It’s time to have a courageous conversation.

In most organizations, and in our relationships, we’re all so busy being polite with everyone that we’re either not aware of the breakdown, afraid of the breakdown, or avoiding it altogether. We kid ourselves into thinking that if we don’t deal with it, maybe it will go away.

When we fail to engage and say what we honestly think and feel, our business performance will suffer. When what “goes unsaid” is not being said, our relationships will fail.

Here’s how to approach those courageous conversations that need to take place…

Be Courageous: The essence of a courageous conversation is being direct and not fearful. Having a conversation in your head isn’t the same as having a real conversation. Being courageous means being connected to your feelings. Feelings of fear and anxiety create distance. When we are courageous we are fearless. When we act with courage, there is a certain grace that is brought to the conversation.

Be Present: In order to have a courageous conversation, we need to be completely in the moment. Often, in meetings and in relationships where we interact with others, we fail to be fully present. We go through the motions, but we’re not really there, or we’re mentally checked out. In order to have a successful courageous conversation, we need to stay present and engaged. When we are present, we can be more aware of our feelings and the feelings of others.

Be Reflective: In order for us to have a productive courageous conversation, we need to pause and reflect. Sometimes we react without thinking about how our response might impact the person(s) with whom we are interacting. Without pausing, without being reflective, we might choose an inappropriate response. We may say something we will regret.
Be Human: When participating in a courageous conversation, we need to be human. Most of us have a limited vocabulary when expressing our feelings, so we are more likely to offer an automatic or habitual response than to connect heart to heart. When we are human, we have a need to connect, to understand, to listen and to belong. When we are being human, we can bring meaning and energy to the heart of what is important.

Be Attentive: When involved in a courageous conversation, you must be a great listener. Pay close attention and demonstrate sincere interest in the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Be the person who is truly listening by tapping into hidden dialogue, and uncovering what is not being said. When you make more meaningful contact, you are more likely to get the other person’s full attention.

Be Honest: When engaging courageous conversation, we need to be honest and say what we truly feel, without putting off what’s really on our mind. Honesty is not easy. We often repress our true feelings, so much so that sometimes we don’t really know what we honestly want. We must be able to be honest and to say what we are truly feeling, seeing, and wanting. To be honest with yourself and others is to honor self. Being honest will set you free.

Be Curious: When involved in a courageous conversation, leave control at the door. Stay open and curious. The more you try to control, the more out of control you will feel. Try to understand what the other is saying. This does not mean you accept what they say as your truth: it simply means you are open to the possibilities. It is essential to remain open and curious, and not judgmental and controlling.

Be Accountable: When having a courageous conversation, being accountable means that you take responsibility for what you say and how you say it. Do not blame, claim or abuse anyone else. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the one who recognizes that being accountable will help shift the conversation from blame to gaining understanding.

Be Committed: By bringing commitment to your interactions, you learn the power of courageous conversation. Your commitment to be courageous fosters connection. Being committed to courageous conversation will make your communications clear and compelling. It will bring knowing to the unknown.

Lead From Within: When we are aware, we listen to each other, even if there are differences. If we stay focused, if we remain our caring human self, and if we pay attention to others’ feelings and ideas, we foster greater understanding.

If we are honest about our feelings, if we remain curious, and if we are committed to forging courageous conversations, we will help strengthen relationships, productivity, and communication.
Where can you have a courageous conversation today?
Which meeting? What boss? Which employee? What relationship?

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55 Responses to “We Need A Courageous Conversation”

  1. Tamisha

    04. Feb, 2012

    This is such a powerful post, Lolly. And so well articulated. Thank you!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Maurice

    05. Feb, 2012

    Hi Lolly,

    I recognise the behaviour and as I am naturally introvert I find these situations always difficult. Think your guidelines are clear and make sense; it is good to fully engage with the situation. Two things that were valuable in what I learnt about this.
    1. I can understand evrything, but not everything can be tolerated ( in the interest of the tea/ company) As a starting manager I would understand everything, but after some time you learn that not all behaviour is okay.
    2. Simple way of feedback : behaviour > consequence > feeling. Share what behaviour you observe to stay factual, share what you think is the concequence of the behaviour, and then how it makes you feel/interpret. This allows the other person to understand and share how he/ she sees it. And the listen ( as you correctly point out).
    Thanks for the article, see around me lots of this behaviour….

    Reply to this comment
  3. Gwyn Teatro

    05. Feb, 2012

    Lolly, ~ Of all of these, I believe that courage holds the most important key to making a difficult conversation useful and meaningful. The rest, comes from how much we care and how much self-discipline we employ. So often, it is easier simply to walk away, (at least in the short-term), but from my experience, when I have found my courage enough to engage in a difficult conversation, the outcome has always been so much more satisfying than anticipated. Thank you for giving me this rich and nutritious food for thought.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      05. Feb, 2012

      Gwyn,

      What an honor to have you stop by.

      I could not agree more–in courageous conversation. Courage is Key! It takes a lot to have courage it is no easy feat.

      Happy to provide nutrition!

      Reply to this comment
  4. Melanie Greenberg

    05. Feb, 2012

    Wonderfully articulated. Courageous conversations are great for expressing oneself authentically, reaching out, righting miscommunication, setting boundaries, standing out ground, repairing relationships. This is what i try to get my clients to do every day.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      05. Feb, 2012

      Melanie,

      To have a courageous conversation is as you stated, “expressing oneself authentically, reaching out, righting miscommunication, setting boundaries, standing out ground, repairing relationships.”

      Thanks for your thoughtful insights.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      05. Feb, 2012

      Melanie,

      To have a courageous conversation is as you stated, “expressing oneself authentically, and reaching out………standing out ground, repairing relationships.”

      Thanks for your thoughtful insights.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  5. Karl

    05. Feb, 2012

    Can I add Lolly that being courageous will spread through an organisation like wildfire, it will highlight the virtue of courage and “leading from within”, encouraging others to be similarly proactive whilst demonstrating your ability & belief in doing the right things.
    Great post, I will forward this onto my students, I often field questions on difficult conversations

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      05. Feb, 2012

      Karl,

      Yes you can add whatever you like!

      I would love to know what your students think.

      What warrants them to have a courageous conversation?

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  6. El Biddulph

    05. Feb, 2012

    So many important ways to be. Thank you for including “be attentive.” There are many who forget the importance of good listening in a courageous conversation. Sometimes, it takes courage to stop talking, too.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      05. Feb, 2012

      It takes courage to be present- to listen- to be human- to be attentive- to be committed.

      Thanks for stopping by
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  7. Miriam Ocasio

    05. Feb, 2012

    Dear Lolly, I am so thrilled that I found your site as I was looking for people to follow on twitter. Courageous conversations are so scary – even with those we love. I especially like the “reflective” step. This is where I find communication breaks down for me. To help, I practice staying present and really listening. It makes such a difference. I’ve learned that my story was so connected to how I communicated with others. The great thing is that I choose to rewrite my story. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Cheri Essner

    05. Feb, 2012

    Wow I love this post!

    Reply to this comment
  9. Patty DeDominic

    05. Feb, 2012

    Showing up is the first step! Thanks for this wise mentoring!

    Learning new skills keeps us all stronger and more resilient.
    Patty De
    Women’s Festivals
    2012 Theme is Live, Love Learn

    Reply to this comment
  10. David Lapin

    05. Feb, 2012

    In my humble opinion, one of your best yet – and you set yourself a very high bar! It seems to me that many courageous conversations don’t happen not for lack of courage but often simply for lack of knowledge: How do you do this? How do you do it without causing excessive hurt or damage? How do you avoid sounding “bossy” or arrogant? How do you avoid triggering the other person’s defenses. And you’ve laid out the way: Clearly, practically, accurately in the most useful and helpful way possie. Thank you Lolly.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      07. Feb, 2012

      David!

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are correct people want to connect. But they don’t always know how to communicate without hurting another, disappointing another.
      ….so they say nothing. Life is about being authentic, its about being connected, its about being understood. Courageous conversation should not be something you reserve for a special occasion its should be part of the norm.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  11. Saraswati

    06. Feb, 2012

    Two things “Be attentive and leave control” are most difficult. They come from being aware all the time ” in difficult conversations” and practice. Very well articulated.

    Thanks Lolly.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      07. Feb, 2012

      Sarawati,

      Yes I agree. Being present. being attentive. Leaving control is difficult but that is what this journey is about. Learning. Growing and Evolving. Being human.

      We all need to do the best we can at the moment we can.

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your insightful comment.
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  12. Bette Krakau

    06. Feb, 2012

    Courageous conversations also require problem solving. Asking the question — “Where do we go from here?”. After discussing the issue or problem, discussing next steps in building a relationship is important. Ensuring that all involved leave the conversation with concrete and proactive actions.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Samir Atalla

    06. Feb, 2012

    I hope I can remember the above under pressure, my weakness is I lack courage under pressure, though the above ideas are a great road map, I tend to lose my road map under pressure from fear I would say.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      07. Feb, 2012

      Samir,

      Life gets more difficult under pressure. You are correct. Copy and carry the steps of courageous conversation in your pocket (lol)
      and use it as a road map – a compass- for the next courageous conversation you need to make.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  14. Caitlin Durkin

    06. Feb, 2012

    Great post, Lolly. I agree with David Lapin’s comment above; oftentimes its just because people don’t know, they are uncertain, which leads to a lack of confidence and fear. Finding the courage, like you say, is key to being able to effectively say what needs to be said. Letting it come out in angry or accusatory ways is not courageous–that’s doing it to get it done, not to get a helpful outcome. So my favorite steps are Be Accountable, Be Committed, and Lead From Within.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      07. Feb, 2012

      Caitlin,

      All steps are important to reach the solution you want….and that is a deep understanding of self and others.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  15. Jason Anthony

    07. Feb, 2012

    I think a strong regard for oneself behind having these courageous conversations can really aid in the process.

    It comes down to taking responsibility ourselves and doing what is right and just (not what’s fair or nice). Sometimes that’s a tough cookie to eat.

    Came across this at random today, but I’m now a fan!

    Reply to this comment
  16. Enrique Fiallo

    07. Feb, 2012

    Wonderfully put! I especially like Be Curious, Be Attentive and Be Present. I think many of us fall short in really listening and understanding what the other person is saying. How many times are we talking to someone, having what we believe is a really meaningful discussion, opening our hearts, and we can see that the other person is distracted, or perhaps even thinking about their reply instead of listening to what we have to say. Empathic Listening means really walking in the other person;s shoes, “trying on” their feelings and beliefs, and experiencing what they experience. We all need to do more of that. I really enjoyed this post!
    Enrique Fiallo

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      07. Feb, 2012

      Enrique,

      I agree with your comments. If we listen to understand- we can honestly show that we care.

      LOVED your comment and thoughtful insight
      Thanks
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  17. Jane Blaufus

    07. Feb, 2012

    Hi Lolly,

    I have just published a book about having courageous conversations with oneself and others in regards to dealing with illness or death. All too often people bury their heads in the sand because they do not want to have these conversations. Then when the unspeakable happens, it is too late to talk.
    The points you have articulated are well done and I believe they apply in many areas of our life.

    Regards Jane

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      07. Feb, 2012

      Jane,

      Your books sounds like an important read. The points I make have to do with LIFE.
      They have to do with business and with relationships. We are who we are …in all aspects of our lives.
      The more authentic we are …the more beautiful life can be.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  18. Paul Lemley

    07. Feb, 2012

    I took so much out of this post Lolly! My graduate class last week covered going Meta on your communication by reflecting on the things you CAN control, and getting out of your own way to create healthy dialogue. This post was the perfect addition.
    Thanks for your insight.

    Reply to this comment
  19. saurabh

    07. Feb, 2012

    quite wonderful and true. u’ve hit the nail on its head. wonderful post

    Reply to this comment
  20. Tyler

    07. Feb, 2012

    Great comments. I’d like to offer a song I wrote to supplement with a little musical inspiration :) http://music.tylermatthewsmith.com/track/wednesdays-song

    Reply to this comment
  21. Mike

    09. Feb, 2012

    Hi Lolly – I really enjoyed your posting, and it addresses a very important fact of leadership and how a leader takes care of people – and that is the concept of telling them the facts, and some times the facts are “you are not making it” – but, as the leader, I am going to do what ever I can to get you to where you need to be – your positive approach and genuine advice here will help many and go a long way to resolving conflicts and allow people to move on down a better path. I’ll look forward to more good things from you to share!

    Reply to this comment
  22. Kien Vu Chung

    09. Feb, 2012

    Hi Lolly,

    I am so exciting about your article. It is really a very good article and very useful for me. Thanks so much and hope you have more articles like this.

    Kien

    Reply to this comment
  23. Jon

    10. Feb, 2012

    Thank you for your beautiful thoughts!

    Reply to this comment
  24. Jon

    11. Feb, 2012

    Great article, thank you; it contains all the things to consider when one is having those all important conversations. So many people avoid, avoid avoid and then SNAP

    Thank you :)

    Reply to this comment
  25. Greg Blencoe

    11. Feb, 2012

    Lolly,

    I’ve enjoyed your tweets, so I thought I’d come check out your blog!

    Here are my thoughts on this post…

    I think courageous is a very appropriate word to use, because these types of conversations can be quite difficult to have.

    I’ve found that the most difficult part for me has been either asking for or being asked to have the conversation. That whole part can be very uncomfortable. But while the actual conversation is not usually easy, I think it is a lot easier than the time building up to it.

    When I’ve had these conversations, there is a release of fear and anxiety when the conversation starts. The built-up tension subsides which is a relief. And if both people are reasonable and trying to work towards a solution, the conversation can go well. If not, the best case scenario might be that the two people have to respectfully agree to disagree.

    A very challenging part for me has been accepting that the other person’s point of view is just as valid as mine even though I may not agree with that point of view or interpret the situation in the same way. We’re all different and we all see things from a different point of view. But as you suggest, I think trying to bridge these differences with communication is definitely the way to go.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Michael Ciszewski

    14. Feb, 2012

    Hi Lolly –

    So much goodness here, in your original post and all the comments that follow.

    I find I think about courage and fear a little bit differently. Courage is not the absence of fear. Indeed, if fear is what you are feeling in the present moment, bring it to your full awareness and name it.

    Courage, rather, is being aware of your fear and choosing to act anyway.

    Warmly,
    M

    Reply to this comment
  27. Afudanlove

    14. Feb, 2012

    Lolly, honestly u are a blessing to ds generation, keep it up. I love ur post, God bless u.

    Reply to this comment
  28. Larry

    16. Feb, 2012

    Good article; taking it one step further many personality types are predisposed to avoiding conflict. The key to developing that person is to help them understand their personality and then help them overcome the reasons they avoid. “Type talk at work” is a great read for identifying these things in your young leaders and will help focus them on solution based thinking. I’ve also found that some only learn by seeing that courageous conversation happen…invite them to join you while you do just that.

    thanks Lolly…

    Reply to this comment
  29. Al Gonzalez

    18. Feb, 2012

    Lolly, thank you so much for all the value you provide! The article and, as Michael Ciszewki says, the comments are fantastic. The issue of having the courage to approach others directly instead of talking to others is a universal challenge we all see to struggle with. I would be interested in your thoughts about the topic of honoring feedback and how I am coaching others on this area.
    I know you are extremely busy and would be honored if you could take a look at http://www.giveleadership.com/6-steps-to-sustainable-teams/feedback-mechanism.html and share your view on how this relates or assists in the courageous conversations we all need to lead.

    Thanks again!

    Reply to this comment
  30. Brett Labit

    29. Feb, 2012

    Nicely done! There is definitely power in proper professional or loving confrontation. Most people avoid confrontation like it is a bad plague. I look at confrontation as a Conference to resolve a situation amicably

    Reply to this comment
  31. Lizabeth

    29. Feb, 2012

    All that you say here is so true, Lolly. We “kid” ourselves into believing an irritation in a relationship will go away–like kids, we put our hands over our ears and sing a lovely tune. But sooner or later, the courage must come in.

    I especially like this concept: “Be the person who is truly listening by tapping into hidden dialogue, and uncovering what is not being said.” I do this as easily as I breathe–most don’t–and when I articulate what I hear is not being said, others often deny it because they’re not seeing that deeply. What do *you* do in the situation where the emotional investment is big, and having them see what they’re not seeing is important for the growth of the relationship–but they just argue that the hidden dialogue is NOT there?

    Reply to this comment
  32. Slim Fairview

    01. Mar, 2012

    Initially,

    What do you do when you have an employee who is great at getting results, meeting their targets, and great with customers, but when it comes to their team, they are abrasive, abusive and condescending?

    This presupposes that everyone is supposed to “be on a team”.

    You have people. Different people have different skills.

    Gets results.
    Meets Targets
    Great with Customers.

    The next step is to make substantive gains subordinate to symbolic gestures.

    This is analogous to a joke told by Fareed Zakaria on GPS.

    One socialist economist to another, “What you say may work in practice, comrade, but it will not work in theory.”

    In short, your employee does well in practice, but not in theory.

    #2. The next assumption: with whom do we have the courageous conversation.

    a. The other employees: “Yes, Lorraine may be abrasive, but Lorraine is the best producer and all the customers like her. Would it help if I limited the amount of interaction you have with Lorraine?”

    b. The “boss”? “Yes, Lorraine is abrasive, however, she is our best producer. If she leaves to work for the competition, your department won’t meet the sales goals. What kind of courageous conversation will you have with the remaining members of the team to help them make up for the loss.”

    I worked with a person I will describe as stupid, rude, and abusive. However, he was more skilled than anyone in the company and he worked cheap! It wasn’t until after a physical confrontation that I had a sit-down with the owner of the company. I did not discuss this employee’s behaviour. I hit the owner where it really hurt–his wallet. I detailed how much this employee was really costing him.

    Why did this work? Essentially, because this employee could not work for another company. His “issues” made that too difficult.

    Different situations require different skills. No one at this company had my ability in financial analysis.

    This is an extremely complex topic. You are courageous to tackle it.

    Regards,

    Slim

    Reply to this comment
  33. Brigitte Allard

    05. Mar, 2012

    Fear is not healthy and your excellent post proves it once more. We are teaching our son to be courageous and I will make sure that he reads your post. I will have my college students read it to.
    Thank you very much for this moment.
    Brigitte

    Reply to this comment
  34. Raul Edgardo Ocaranza

    14. Jan, 2014

    Sincerity, honesty and prescence [first person (which is the hardest part but absolutely necessary)] to “correct directions” constructively!
    cordially
    Raul Ocaranza

    Reply to this comment
  35. Raul Edgardo Ocaranza

    14. Jan, 2014

    + Coherence and foundations, Greetings

    Raul Ocaranza

    Reply to this comment
  36. Agus

    16. Mar, 2014

    Once again, a great article!. From Be courageous to Be commit, it’s sound like quite great.
    But please let me share my experienced humility.

    There’s unwritten rule in work place,
    1. Boss always right.
    2. When boss made mistake, back to no. 1.

    If we wish to change something, we have to change from “within”(things), at “edge” of the path, do it or don’t, take it or leave it. Keep it move while change is freewill.

    Thanks to share.

    Reply to this comment

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