“There are moments of disproportionate influence, moments where how someone behaves has an enormous effect on every result they care about.” – Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations
Let’s be blunt here: crucial conversations are hard, very hard. “When it matters most, we often tend to do our worst.” This has been a large struggle for me in my lifetime. When I sit down face-to-face with someone to have a crucial conversation, it can sometimes be difficult for me to keep my emotions in check and that can derail a conversation quickly. I often fare better in having written conversations because I am able to write out my thoughts and see what I am going to say BEFORE I open my metaphoric mouth. But that is not always an option, nor what is best for the other person or the conversation.
As a child, at some point, I bought wholesale into the myth that you have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend/relationship. It has been and continues to be a struggle for me to choose truth when I know that it could possibly cause difficulty in my friendships and relationships. I know that honesty can birth incredible intimacy, deeper bonds, and sharpening relationships, and I have definitely experienced that, thank God! But we all face those situations where we can fear those crucial conversations. I have had quite a few of them over the past several years, and I have been able to see a change in my strength in those conversations. I am still in process, yes, but I have been able to have some crucial conversations, be honest and respectful throughout, and I think that it worked to good effect on both sides.
One of my biggest fears/worries is what people will think of me, if I am being totally honest. One of the statements that Joseph Grenny makes, in his book and in his public speaking, is this: “People never become defensive about what you are saying. They become defensive because of why they think you are saying it.” My mind is such that I catch myself worrying about what other people possibly think of me or my motivations, imagining their thoughts or what they might say to others of me. I try to make sure that people know my intent for a conversation but it is hard even then at times. I want to be able to create a sense of safety so that I can have these crucial conversations. But how? How can I create that sense of safety if there has been any emotion/pain/misunderstanding between myself and others in the past? Or if I have already attempted to create that safety, that mutual purpose and respect, in other ways with what seems to have been minimal effect? That deeply discourages me from conversation, to be frank. If previous attempts at fostering safety haven’t seemed to work, how can I put myself out even more for a conversation that may not even be desired? When do I stop being someone who is trying and become just a nuisance? These are the questions that I am asking myself as I continue to try to work and grow through this process we call life, which no one can fully prepare you for.
Crucial conversations are hard and, in my particular case, they are a lifelong process.