I have had several difficult conversations in the last few weeks – upward, downward, and peer-to-peer. What makes a conversation difficult? To me, it’s when I should deliver or receive a message and I’m not sure how the other party will respond. At the most basic, there is an element of fear present. Will I damage the relationship? Hurt someone’s feelings? Lose credibility?
One thing that all difficult or challenging communications have in common is courage. It takes courage to acknowledge that there is risk and to choose to have the dialogue anyway.
Courage (n.): the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Communication (n.): the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
Communication is courageous. It can feel daunting to reach out to colleagues, peers, friends, family or team members and deliver a tough message. Having feelings is part of the human experience and it’s these feelings that can entice us to avoid saying what needs to be said. If you’ve ever had to tell a spouse or a boss something you know they don’t want to hear – you know the struggle is real.
Delivering tough messages can surface anger and disappointment or love and possibility. Either way, the opportunity exists for rejection, backlash, and hurt… and as humans, we like avoid inflicting these feelings on ourselves and others.
This is where courage comes in. We can look fear in the face and communicate anyway. It is incredibly liberating to say the thing that needs to be said – with kindness and compassion, of course. Courageous communication creates space for possibility and something new. When we cower from difficult conversations, we are unable to move forward. We are stuck in our emotions and the opportunity for growth is lost.
To live our fullest lives, we must say what needs to be said, when we need to say it. Courage enables us to speak now.
Where can you add in more courage to your conversations? What do you need to say to get unstuck and grow?