Some conversations feel more manageable than others. It’s easy to talk with your colleagues about the Netflix show you’ve been binging, the vacation you have coming up, or even the annoying coworker you have in common.
Other conversations feel trickier, especially those where we are concerned about rocking the boat, worried about hurting someone’s feelings, or not wanting to put a colleague in a difficult situation. This could be anything from giving some challenging performance feedback to telling someone no to their request for a more flexible schedule, or asking someone to change their tone of voice when speaking to a client.
Chances are, those are the interactions that keep you up at night. And, as a result, these may be the ones you’re most likely to avoid. It’s ironic, isn’t it? These potential conflicts are taking up valuable headspace, and yet, we’d rather calculate and ruminate than activate.
Why? Well, you might think that by avoiding a conversation you can prevent hurt feelings–yours or theirs. Or you may tell yourself that you don’t have enough information to have “the talk” yet. Perhaps you’re not sure how they’ll react–or you can predict exactly how they react and you don’t want any part of that.
And we are very skilled at matching that resistance with mindsets that keep us quiet. Here are some common ones:
- “I should just figure this out myself.”
- “Asking for what I want or need will be an uncomfortable conversation.”
- “I should put the team’s needs ahead of my own.”
- “I don’t have the time to advocate for what I want.”
- “I will be seen as pushy.”
Do any of these sound familiar?
And yes, there are times where the situation may resolve itself, or your concern isn’t critical to the relationship or work product, or the time to address it has really, truly passed. But far too often, we make up excuses for why we should delay or skip a conversation.
And then we may minimize the problem, pretend we don’t see the problem, hope that someone else will address the problem, talk to everyone else about the problem (other than the person we’re having the problem with), or just pray it goes away.
When that happens, we need some new mindsets and new language to help us step into a potentially uncomfortable conversation with the goal of achieving an outcome and tending to the relationship.
Here are some new mindsets to try that are more likely to lead to action:
- “My needs are valid–as valid as anyone else’s. “
- “If I don’t start the conversation, who will?”
- “I’m curious about what could happen if I dealt with this now rather than wondering and worrying . . .”
- “The most successful professionals model self-awareness. And that’s what I’m doing.”
- “Telling the truth is a brilliant way to create healthy relationships.”
Once you have a new set of beliefs, you are more likely to feel more confident, willing, and brave.
Now, let’s look at some language you can use to start the conversation:
- “I’d like to talk about something that feels important to me. When would be a good time for a conversation?”
- “I need this to feel engaged/respected/safe at work, and I have some ideas of what we could do differently.”
- “I am happy in my role, and I recognize that there’s something I need to feel even happier.”
- “I notice I / we have a pattern. Here’s what I see as the issue. What do you think?”
- “I’ve been avoiding talking to you until now because I’m not always sure the best time/way to approach you. I realize that I should have brought this up sooner, and I’m bringing it up now.”
Not every conversation needs to happen–but there are plenty you could be having instead of avoiding. And, once you start advocating for your own needs in a timely and honest way, you’re likely to feel less stressed and feel more confident that you are your own best advocate.