After facilitating the Challenging Conversations workshop last week, I realized the importance of talking about how to have more productive conversations. Several of the workshop participants commented on how helpful it was to have a place to bring questions, role-play real life situations, and learn tips from each other. It made me stop and think about where do people learn the important life skill of having difficult conversations? Rarely is this learned from family. In fact, family situations provide some of the most common situations where emotions flare and rational conversation goes out the window. This life skill is not taught in schools, although an inspirational teacher can open the door to a new perspective on how to handle life situations. Sometimes a boss will model how to engage in appropriate workplace discussions, although it is just as likely one’s boss never got this life skill and models what not to do. So, it is not surprising that we arrive at middle age not knowing how to communicate in a mature and effective manner, especially when it involves emotions and feelings.
My challenge to you is to find one or two people that you can talk to about the challenging conversations you have dealt with or need to have. Be willing to share what is your fear about this process and ask them to do the same. Use a real life or work example and find out what others would do. Practice what you want to say and give an example or two. Get in touch with how this situation impacts you, and practice expressing these feelings. It is amazing how much of the fear around speaking the truth fades away when it is brought into the light and we find out we are not alone in these fears. Finding out that other’s deal with the same stress and anxiety over these conversations takes away the shame and puts us in control of the situation.
Let me know if you find it helpful to talk about talking.