COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS

 

Take a minute to reflect on the many conversations you have had this week with colleagues, employees and family members.

Now think about the one you didn’t have.

Where are you holding back? What are you not sharing with your boss, colleague or family member that if you could find a way to share, it would set you free?

Courageous conversations are the lifeblood of effective teams, workplaces, and marriages. When we muster up the courage to have them our relationships evolve and grow. When we don’t, they wither under the burden of unspoken truths and unresolved resentments.

What are you not sharing with your boss, colleague
or family member that if you could find a way to share,
it would set you free?

So, how can we speak our truth gracefully and effectively? How do we move past our fears that keep us from finding our voice?

Several years ago I witnessed a wonderfully courageous conversation between my youngest daughter Hannah (then six years old), and her first grade teacher. It inspired me and taught me why these “truth-telling” conversations are so important, how to have them, and the potential they have to spark quantum leaps forward in our relationships - first with ourselves and then with others.

Here is what happened:

A couple of months into the school year, Hannah began to complain about going to school. She said her teacher scared her and that she was afraid to be in her class.

What I knew about Hannah’s first-grade teacher was this -- On her best days she was creative, fun and passionate. On her worst days, she was a short-tempered bully who used fear and intimidation to control her class.

Courageous conversations are the lifeblood of
effective teams, workplaces and marriages

Wanting to build Hannah’s confidence and courage, I suggested the two of us meet with her teacher to discuss the situation, with her taking the lead. At first she was scared to confront her teacher and wanted me to do it for her. But I wanted Hannah to find her own voice, and I suspected that her teacher would listen more to her than she would to me.

So we role played what Hannah would say and practiced it a few times. I agreed to hold her hand under the table while she spoke so that she would feel supported and safe.

Later that week the three of us sat down to discuss the problem. After I thanked the teacher for taking time out of her busy day to meet with us, I turned the conversation over to Hannah. All of six years old, she looked small and fragile. But when she began to speak, I was struck by the power of her presence.

“Mrs. Jones,” she began in a voice that was barely a whisper, “Sometimes when you yell at us it really scares me.”

I was struck by the power of her presence

For a brief moment Mrs. Jones said nothing. Then she responded with, “Well, yes I know sometimes I have to raise my voice, because you know we have certain rules in the classroom, and some children choose not to follow them. You aren’t one of them, but there are children sitting around you who don’t follow the rules.”

At this point I gave Hannah’s hand a little squeeze under the table. She continued. “But when you yell and slam your hands on our desks, I still get scared, even if you aren’t talking to me.”

“Well, okay Hannah,” her teacher replied. “I’ll try not to raise my voice so much because I don’t want you to be scared.” I could hear in her tone of voice a slight softening of her position. Then, just to be sure Hannah knew where she stood she added, “But I still expect the class to behave and follow the rules and when they don’t, I will not tolerate it.”

I don’t remember what else was said after that, but I have never forgotten my daughter’s courage and the way she spoke her truth honestly, yet without any hint of blame or judgment.

I have never forgotten my daughter’s courage
and the way she spoke her truth honestly,
yet without any hint of blame or judgment

After that conversation, Hannah’s teacher made some attempts to modify her behavior. But the real change took place inside Hannah. For the rest of the year she seemed to stand taller and more confidently. She was less anxious and more secure in herself and in her own ability to act despite her fears.

Over time, her complaints about the teacher virtually disappeared. In the end, Hannah’s relationship with herself and her teacher was transformed, not so much because her teacher had changed, but because Hannah had.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What Courageous Conversation have you been avoiding, and with whom?
  • How can you speak your truth honestly yet without blame or judgment?
  • Who can you turn to for guidance, support and encouragement before and after your courageous conversation?
  • If you are a leader or parent, which person in your stewardship most needs your encouragement and support in order to express their own voice more courageously? How might you best support and encourage them?


Contact ClearCompass © Copyright 2008, ClearCompass, All Rights Reserved