Put on Your Big Boy Pants: Have that Tough Conversation NOW

road block

Road blocks to difficult conversations exist only in your head!

What’s stopping YOU from having the difficult conversation lurking in your head?  

Is it……?

Procrastination……Fear of rejection……Fear of anger……Embarrassment……Not knowing the way to say it……Fear of reprisal……Shoot the messenger fears……Your own discomfort…..You’re afraid you’ll be emotional……Your fear of their reaction–uh oh!……Not wanting to face the truth……You’re STILL waiting for the right moment……Your refuse to own your own your stuff..….Fear you might lose control……They should come to YOU…..Certainty that YOU’RE right……You are much too hurt……You don’t believe in talking about such things……You can’t admit you were wrong……You’re waiting for THEM to go first……You just don’t know where to begin……You tried already……You think, “Oh, it will all just blow over”……You don’t believe it will make a difference?

ostrich

Is this you?

Whatever the reason is (or reasons) for your delay, the end result is the same. Nothing and I mean NOTHING improves when you avoid an uncomfortable, difficult conversation regardless of all the excuses you make in your head.

According to J.D. Schramm in Harvard Business Review, “Often our fear of having the conversation with somebody about a sensitive subject can be worse than having the conversation itself. We put off bringing up a tough subject because we are waiting for the “perfect opportunity.”

But the uncomfortable truth, the truth we all know, is this:  there is no perfect opportunity. If we wait, the conversation will never happen.

We have to just put on our big boy pants and do it. WE need to make the first move regardless of who spoke last, or who we think is wrong, or exactly what happened, or who we think SHOULD reach out first. We need to take a breath and begin.

go sign

Follow these tips to help you get started on that difficult conversation you’re avoiding:

  1. Write out your thoughts – If time allows, write. Write how you think you’d say it, without the anger and without the judgment. Consider it brainstorming. You’ll find both things not- to-say, and things very well said. Use your writing as a guide.
  2. Make a commitment.  If you’ve been procrastinating, set a time frame. Say to yourself (or even better, to someone who will hold you accountable) I’ll have this conversation by tomorrow, two days from now, a week from now. Just set a date that is close enough to break through your procrastination.
  3. Come up with a few good openers. Make sure you have one or two good opening lines to start off the conversation. Rule of thumb is:  be real, express yourself honestly (even if you have to say you are somewhat nervous), and be direct. Get right to what you want to talk about. No beating around the bush.
  4. Keep it private. If the topic is stressful enough to qualify as a tough conversation to you, regardless of what anyone else thinks, then privacy is a must. Never begin one of these talks in earshot of others, unless they, too, are part of the conversation.
  5. Tolerate imperfection. These talks are challenging. That means they often won’t be perfect. With that in mind, congratulate yourself for facing the issue instead of judging yourself for not saying it perfectly.  Even an average job of a difficult conversation IS an accomplishment.

None of us can avoid difficult conversations in life. They are a part of life. Unless you are a hermit, you might as well begin to develop this skill now.

Instead of avoiding the conversation, you’ll avoid the drama that unexpressed issues create. Problems, misunderstanding and disagreements not brought to light, create relationship issues and ongoing stress. As Kevin O’Leary (also known as “Mr. Wonderful” from The Shark Tank), would say, “Stop the madness.” Have the conversation and the sooner you do, the easier it will be.

49 Difficult Conversations: Which Ones Are You Avoiding?….Or Don’t You Want to Talk About It?

Difficult conversations. Life is full of them. More often than not people avoid them. They are uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Wrought with tension. They can be emotional. Are almost always awkward and well, they are just plain difficult.

There are numerous books about difficult conversations at home or with the boss or in relationships. It’s because unfortunately we really can’t move through life without encountering the need for difficult conversations.

crucial conversationsRather than avoid them, however, a more successful response is to simply dive into them. It reminds me of the expression, “the only way out is through.” Postponing and putting off these talks accomplishes nothing. The procrastination only intensifies the dread. The tensions mount and discomfort builds.

Nope. I’m not a believer in walking away. After years of coaching individuals in business and personal situations, not to mention my own share of challenging experiences, I’m certain it’s best to take a breath and lean into the awkwardness. Once begun, the conversations actually become easier than we expect. Half the battle is forging THROUGH the trepidation to just start. Kind of like Nike’s motto, “Just Do It.”

A difficult conversation is the need to address any subject or issue that creates the following:difficult conversations

  • Desire to run the other direction
  • Hope the circumstances will simply go away
  • Feeling of dread and anxiety even thinking of “talking it out”
  • Concern about “the way to say it”
  • Feeling of awkwardness when faced with the situation
  • Fear of saying it all wrong
  • Potential for drama, hurt feelings and emotional reactions

Here is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, list of 49 topics most experts agree fall into the “difficult conversations” category:

1.       Asking for a raise

2.       Terminating an employee

3.       Resigning without burning bridges

4.       Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend

5.       Ending a friendship

6.       Reminding a friend they owe you money

7.       Saying no to someone’s request for help, money, etc.

8.       Talking to loved ones about their end-of-life wishes

9.       Turning down an invite or opportunity that’s of no interest

10.   Bidding on a home or piece of real estate

11.   Refusing to compromise on a principle

12.   Expressing dissatisfaction with an employee’s attitude or work

13.   Cancelling a commitment

14.   Letting someone know you aren’t interested in developing a social relationship with them

15.   Expressing anger when someone violates a boundary

16.   Standing up to people who take advantage

17.   Apologizing for a mistake

18.   Delivering a poor performance review

19.   Negotiating a salary package

20.   Asking for a refund

21.   Accepting a gift you don’t like

22.   Expressing disagreement during conflict

23.   Speaking up when no one agrees with you

24.   Admitting an affair or indiscretion to your spouse

25.   Pointing out the flaws of a new plan or program at work

26.   Letting your friend know their new boy/girl friend is a loser

27.   Telling your spouse you overextended the family financially

28.   Confronting emotional or physical abuse

29.   Negotiating prices on services for your home

30.   Telling your parents you are going to break with family traditions

31.   Talking to your kids about sex

32.   Confronting your kids about drug use

33.   Telling your spouse you suspect them of  infidelity

34.   Talking to the police in confrontational situations

35.   Handling employee complaints

36.   Addressing inappropriate dress, language or hygiene in the workplace

37.   Confronting second-hand insults and comments

38.   Telling an employee they spend too much time on personal emails at work

39.   Drawing a line in the sand about behavior you’ll accept in a relationship

40.   Owning your mistakes in a relationship

41.   Making intimate requests of your spouse

42.   Telling your spouse you’re leaving, you want a divorce

43.   Confronting someone of suspected misconduct, theft or lying

44.   Giving honest feedback on work poorly done

45.   Facing your partner after a particularly ugly, out-of-control argument

46.   Apologizing for a deeply hurtful comment

47.   Telling your children you and your spouse are divorcing

48.   Talking with your spouse through the divorce process

49.   Sharing bad information with a client

Actually, the topic itself is less important in making it a tough conversation. What matters most is YOUR feeling about having that conversation.  If the mere thought of it brings up the anxiety and dread mentioned above, then for you it’s a difficult conversation and you might seek out some support to face it and get it behind you.

ostrichTell me, when do you stick your head in the sand instead of speak up? What topics do you avoid even though you know deep down the talk needs having?  I’d like to add your dreaded conversations to this for a future post. What are some of your most difficult conversations?

…..or don’t you want to talk about it?

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Three Ways to Say “No” This Holiday Season

Just say it!

Just say it!

Have you spouted out a solid “NO” yet today? How about yesterday? Last week?

It’s the Holidays and as much as we all want things perfect, in actuality, it can be a tense time.  There are long lists of errands to run. There are multiple demands on your time.  There are far too many people’s opinions to take into account for the dinner menu, the guests, the time, the gifts, and all the other details to plan a “perfect” holiday event.

Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays and whether you love or hate them, there is added stress not present the rest of the year.  It’s a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. Not if you open your mouth and say that two- letter word you’re screaming on the inside. Say it. Say “no.”

Say things like, “No. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you with the children’s school play this year. I’m going to have to pass.”

Or maybe you need to say, “Thanks for the invite to your Christmas party. I so appreciate being included. Unfortunately, we can’t make it this year.”

Possibly your “no” might be about setting limits on gifts and holiday purchases. Maybe what needs to be said is “I would love to exchange gifts with everyone in the family, but this year the budget just isn’t going to cover it. Let’s look at that again next year.”

It’s not critical that the actual word “no” be included in your sentence. Nor is it necessary for you to defend and explain why you can’t make the party or won’t host dinner this year. In fact the less said about why, the less likely you are to cave and be talked out of your response. Just find the simplest, nicest way of saying “no” showing appreciation to others and still protecting your own boundaries.

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be harsh and selfish. Nor does it have to be overly apologetic and guilty. The word “no” is an important element of difficult conversations and a small word with a huge impact. Neglecting to use this powerful word to set your limits and protect your time or your money or your energy will undoubtedly leave you giving too much of yourself away.

Start this holiday with a gift to yourself. Say “no” when that’s what your instincts are screaming inside. Say “no” when there is too much on your plate, or you just aren’t interested in the activity. Practice by saying “no” to one request each day, no matter how small. All totaled up, those little limits you set will leave you feeling lighter, less stressed and more in the spirit the holidays are all about.

Remember, difficult conversations mean saying, not thinking, what is true for you.

 

 

 

How to Shift Gears, Save Time & Avoid Conflicts When You’re in a Bad Mood

warning bad mood in progressI’m a strong proponent of direct, honest, clear communication in just about every situation. That includes days when we are not at the top of our game. Or to be more direct, days we’re in a bad mood.

I recall times as a child trying to decipher body language, facial expressions and energy of adults. Trying to figure out if things were “safe” or if I needed to lay low.  Not knowing for sure what was up meant walking on eggshells till things calmed down.

I still don’t get why it had to be so difficult. Why not just say it?

It’s natural to have bad mood moments or even days. We shouldn’t feel guilty or stuff the feelings pretending they don’t exist. When denied, those feelings only intensify.

Why not just say it? I’m in a bad mood today. I’m having a tough morning. I’m not myself. I’m out of sorts. If we can just say it, the people around us will know to give us love or patience, or to just get the hell out of the way till we return to a better frame of mind.

By being real and honest and owning what’s up for us, we will not only move through it more quickly, we’ll also help those around us understand what we need.  The trick is knowing the way to say it, so we won’t be at a loss for words.

To manage a mood and avoid misunderstandings that result when your team doesn’t know what’s wrong,  use simple direct “I” statements. They tell those around us clearly, that we’re off our game and need a little time.

Your “bad mood” warning could sound like this:

  • “Right now I’m in a bad mood.  I want you to understand it has nothing to do with you.”
  • “I’m sorry to say I’m in a bad mood right now. I don’t want to take it out on you.”
  • “I would appreciate your understanding. Today, I’m not feeling myself. If you can give me some distance this morning, it would be a help.”
  • “I am not feeling patient right now. I need some quiet time. Think you could give me some space till I can move through this?”
  • “Katy today is going to be a busy day at the office so I wanted to give you a head’s up. I had a horrible start to my morning and need some time to turn that around. I’ll check in with you in about an hour.”
  • “Mike, I’ve got some personal things on my mind right now and they’re affecting my mood. Just wanted to let you know, if I seem short, it has nothing to do with you.”
  •  “I need you to know I’m really angry right now, but not with you. If you can just leave me alone for a bit while I figure things out, I’d appreciate that.”

 Just say it! It will give you the space you need to shift gears without wasting the energy of those around you.

In the workplace, productivity won’t suffer with your employees tiptoeing around you not knowing what’s wrong or if it’s them you are angry at. And at home, everyone will relax when they learn you’re in a bad mood, but it has nothing to do with them.   warning proceed with caution

Pick your favorite line above. Or make up your own and give others warning when you’re not at your best. Everyone benefits.

Six Steps to Initiating Difficult Conversations

Starting the conversation is the hard part.

Starting the conversation is the hard part.

There’s something about difficult conversations that keeps us stuck. We know we need to speak up, but instead we shut down. Rather than take action and get the conversation behind us, we obsess over it.

How should we say it? Will they get mad? How will they respond? Will they turn it around on us? What if they cry?  Suppose we lose control? What if, what if, what if. On and on we go. While we sit obsessing on what needs to be said, time passes. Tension builds. Resentment grows. The gap between us widens. Broaching the subject only gets harder as we procrastinate.

Nike built a zillion dollar brand on the slogan, Just Do It! Why not use that brilliance to inspire us? Waiting doesn’t make it easier. If you want easy, it is by far easier to jump in and handle the conversation than to wait.

Here are six steps to help you Just Do It with your difficult conversation:

  1. Know the goal  – What outcome do you want? In your mind, name that outcome…briefly and simply. Is it compromise? Understanding? Clearing the air? (If it isn’t a positive outcome…say for example, you want to punish them, or anger them, or get payback, then take no action. The Way to Say It is about coming from a positive place.)
  2. Be your “best” self  –  What’s that? It’s honest, direct, clear and calm, or at least even-tempered.  It also means having patience with others as well as owning your stuff.
  3. Don’t make issues bigger than they are  –  No extra drama. Nothing that is not relevant or necessary to reach understanding. Keep your wording brief and relevant. Less is best.
  4. Listen more than you speak  –  Know you only see one perspective, i.e., yours. By listening to what they have to say and sharing honestly yourself, you’ll learn their point of view and that is critical to resolution.
  5. Give up being right  –  Even if you are right, the goal is understanding. Understanding their point of view and feeling understood yourself.
  6. Accept how it turns out  –  Know that handling difficult conversations with grace takes practice. Accept that at first they may be messy, imperfect, but your efforts to step into these conversations are to be applauded. The conversation may be bumpy. Accept that. Focus on the outcome and congratulate yourself on your efforts.

As with most things in life, taking even the smallest step makes it all easier. Keep this in mind: the conversation itself is not the hardest part. It’s starting the conversation that turns us to stone.  It takes guts to be real, honest and direct.  The great news is more often than not, within minutes of initiating these conversations tension melts and relief floods in.

Next week,  I’ll share actual phrases,opening lines and words to say in these challenging conversations.