Think about a conversation you are avoiding. Why are you avoiding? What are you afraid will happen if you speak up? I call this your Fear-Belief. The following summary offers some common Fear-Beliefs that can help you identify yours, together with a more useful belief that you can adopt.
Fear-Belief More Useful Belief
I will offend someone. If I offer my truth respectfully, and someone is offended, we have a problem we need to address. Avoiding it by hiding my perspective does not make it go away.
I will anger someone. That’s OK. My responsibility is to show up authentically and respectfully. Their responsibility is to manage their anger. If they are unable to, we have a problem. Avoiding it does not make it go away.
I won’t be able to handle the other person’s reaction to what I say. I can handle what comes. Yes, I may feel overwhelmed at times, but I can take a timeout and re-group. I can prepare and be ready to handle what comes.
What I have to say isn’t important. Yes, it is. Each perspective is part of the whole, and it is my responsibility to show up fully.
If I say what is true for me, I risk losing the relationship/job/whatever. This could be true. But most often it isn’t. When I avoid saying something in the first instance, over time I may harbor resentment which will come out in destructive ways, damaging the relationship I am trying to protect
I don’t have time. While it does take time to have these conversations, it takes more time to clean up the messes that arise from not having the conversations.
It takes courage to show up fully, but hiding parts of oneself to avoid disagreement, leads to loss of connection with oneself and others, and ultimately unhappiness. As one of my mentors used to say, “We are all original medicine and the world needs our medicine.” Don’t hold back. You have something valuable to offer.
So, once you decide you want to show up authentically and respectfully, even if it creates some challenges, how do you start having some of these conversations? Here is a four-step process that will help.
Prepare Yourself Mentally: Over time, we develop our mind by engaging in regular practices that promote calmness, resilience, self-trust and self-esteem. Practices such as meditation, yoga, regular exercise. If these aren’t already a part of your day, choose one and begin to incorporate it. Just before a conversation, mental preparation involves two things. First, set your intention to show up fully, authentically and respectfully. Second, acknowledge the fear that has kept you silent and then choose a more useful belief.
Prepare Yourself Physically: This involves ongoing practices as well as preparation and readiness, before and during the conversation. Regular exercise and a healthy diet keep your body and mind fit and agile. If these aren’t already a part of your life, begin to incorporate them now. Over time, your improved health and wellbeing will help you be better prepared for all of the life’s challenges. Schedule your discussion for a time when you will be well rested and well fed because no matter how good you ongoing practice is, things won’t go as well as possible if you are tired or hungry. During the conversation, take breaks as necessary to regroup, refuel, and recommit. This way you will be able to stay present and engaged even in longer conversations.
Structure the Conversation: This is about setting the stage. Choose a time and place that is good for everyone involved. If you need information or other resources, make sure they will be accessible. It is respectful to check in with the person you want to speak with and make sure it is a good time for them as well. If not, schedule another time that will be good for both of you. If this is a conversation that you have been avoiding for a long time, the structuring will probably need even more care. By letting the person know that you are working on showing up more fully and want to talk about something you have been avoiding, you give them an opportunity to handle any surprise that may occur and to be ready to engage with you. By letting them know what the topic is, they can also be prepared to show up fully. If you know you will be dealing with a particularly challenging issue for one or both of you, consider getting the assistance of a skilled facilitator. They can help with this topic, and you will learn new skills that will help in the future. In coming issues I will offer a model structure that you can use in difficult conversations.
Stay Curious: Powerful advice for life in general. In difficult conversations, it is a practice that helps keep conversations authentic and respectful. As you prepare, and as you discuss, notice when you are feeling challenged. Ask yourself questions such as, “Why am I feeling stressed right now? What am I afraid of?” “What do I need to stay engaged?” When you notice the other person getting agitated or otherwise challenged, ask them, “What’s going on?” “Say more about what is important to you?” Curious questions are open-ended and invite exploration. Curiosity keeps us open to what the real issues are and to ways of relating that are authentic and respectful.
What do you think? Are you ready to practice engaging more fully and begin to enjoy the deeper, more meaningful relationships that evolve? If you would like some help, schedule a free, no-obligation Transformation Consultation.