Courageous Candor

“There is always a way to be honest without being brutal.” ~Arthur Dobrin

How  many times have you experienced the “elephant on the table” scenario in which no one wants to speak a hard truth (or at least their perception of what the hard truth is)?

The old saying “making mountains out of molehills” has some truth to it. Image

Small issues can become enormous problems when not dealt with early on through honest conversation: marriages deteriorate, job dissatisfaction occurs, anger escalates, trust is lost.

I had a boss many years ago who used to tell us:

“if you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem”.

Sounds harsh, but so true.  If we are unwilling to put our fears aside and have a committed conversation, nothing will change for the positive.  Whatever the concern is today will still be the concern tomorrow  – I guarantee it.

Most people want the truth even if it is not what they want to hear.  Human beings are incredibly intuitive and know long before the words are spoken that something is not working for them or for others.

Courageous Candor – a few simple rules to critical conversations

Commit to the outcome. Envision what you are looking for as an end result of the conversation: Do you want the other person to provide you  feedback? Do you want to come to an agreement on a particular issue? Do you want to walk away with a plan of action?

Acknowledge that your “truths” may not be their “truths”. Be open to hearing the other person’s perceptions (my perceptions = my realities). Seeing another’s view from different lens may give you some new insight that may change your own perception(s)…

Neutralize the environment – keep it safe by creating calm in your voice and demeanor.  If you are feeling emotionally charged, take some slow, deep, cleansing breaths before entering into the conversation.  Allow your heart rate to slow down and tension to be released from your body.

Design your conversation before you actually have it:

Start with why you want to have the conversation and what your intended outcome is.

Acknowledge that having the conversation is not comfortable for you and most likely for the person you are having the conversation with.  It is okay to be honest that you are not in your comfort zone.  I always worry that if someone gets too comfortable in approaching a difficult situation, they be missing a critical component of a powerful relationship called compassion.

Remember the simple rule of using “I feel…” statements versus “you are…, you did…” statements.  Everyone has a right to their feelings and speaking about how you are feeling about a situation is much more powerful than going into attack mode and pointing out what that other person did or did not do. Maintain that safe environment throughout the conversation.

Obey the two basic ground rules: Respect and Honor.  If you truly are coming into the conversation to resolve any issues and move forward in action, it is important to respect and acknowledge the positive things the other person brings to the table.

Remember that this could be the breakthrough conversation of:

your life
your career
the other person’s life
the other person’s career

Check out Susan Scott’s book Fierce Conversations – a great read with powerful suggestions for the next time you are looking to have a critical conversation with someone.

What are some good books or article you have read on creating powerful conversations?  Any seminars or speakers you would recommend?

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