In my first article on how to have a courageous conversation, I discussed the process of deciding it is time to have a courageous conversation with someone in your life. First, let me remind you how incredibly brave and amazing it is for you to make that decision. Our world is riddled with assumptions and people making decisions and choosing actions without having important conversations with people in their lives. Having a courageous conversation takes bravery and some good old fashioned guts.
As you move forward in the process, keep the intention of your conversation as your lighthouse. It truly is the spot you want to move towards. Also, as part of your homework, be very clear on what it is you are willing and not willing to accept from this relationship and person. The more clarity you can have on what you want and what you willing to give, the easier it will be to stay on purpose when you are actually conversing with this person.
The next step would be to consider when to have this conversation with this person in your life. Consider all logistics and dynamics when you are deciding when to have this conversation.
How are you feeling about the conversation? I am always a bit nervous before having the conversation, but if I feel really upset, I know it may be a bit too soon to have the conversation. I want to be able to keep the conversation productive. If I’m too wrapped up in emotion, I may not be able to see a solution as clearly as I would like. Having said that, sometimes, you need to just forge ahead. The conversation may be THAT important to you and may be in some way impeding your life and your ability to move forward. If you are unsure, I always find spending a bit of quiet time with my thoughts and feelings can do wonders to gain clarity.
Consider the time of day you wish to speak to this person. Ideally, you don’t want to pick a time when the other person is really busy or distracted. They will likely be more open to the conversation if they are more relaxed. In the past, I have actually prepared to speak to someone at a particular time and have changed my mind before proceeding because they were either really busy or dealing with something stressful in their lives. You also ideally want as few distractions as possible when you have the conversation.
Depending on the conversation, think about the possibility of asking the person when might be a good time to talk. This can be a bit tricky and requires a bit of finesse. There aren’t many people who want to hear “when can you talk, I have something to discuss with you”. This can certainly bring up fears and cause the other person to become unsettled. Use your judgement about how to proceed and be mindful of the other person’s feelings.
Once you have an idea of when to speak, think about logistically how to have the conversation. We live in a society that is tied to technology. I am continually amazed at the level of communication that is attempted via email or texting. There is so much lost in the written word. We are not able to express tone or our tone can be completely misinterpreted. Words can also be easily misinterpreted. If this is really important to you, choose either phone, Skype or in person. Obviously in-person is the ideal situation, but it’s not always possible or realistic. Skype is a nice alternative as you can both read body language and see each other.
As a caveat to written communication, there may be times when this is the only realistic communication to take. If someone has not been open to communication to you, or if you are trying to initiate a conversation with someone with whom you who are estranged, this may be your only choice. My recommendation is to keep it short. Clearly state why you are initiating contact, what your intentions are and ask the person if they are open to continuing the conversation. Do not go into details about what may have happened in the past. Look at it as if it is an introductory email to the conversation. You are simply initiating contact with the desire to continue the conversation, if that person is open.
Now you’ve decided when, where and how to have the conversation. You are clear on your intentions and what you are willing and not willing to accept from this person and the relationship. It’s go time!
Consider asking the person if now is a good time to have a talk. I am amazed at how effective this tool is in opening an important conversation. If the person gives you permission, it seems to create a productive space and they are often much more open to what you have to say. It also communicates that you respect them and their time and how they are feeling in that moment. I highly recommend this.
If they say that now isn’t a good time to talk, ask when it would be a good time. Try as best as you can to book a time with them.
Stay tuned to part 3 for when you having the actual courageous conversation!