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In a talk advising women how to multiply their earning power, self-made billionaire Anne McKevitt insisted that “you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” That was what motivated her to start jumping out of airplanes. For you and me, that may mean having an uncomfortable conversation.
I actually heard that interview years ago on the evening after attending my first networking event, a luncheon where at first I had felt quite uncomfortable (actually miserable), wishing I could just get out of that place and fast.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, iI’m preparing for a webinar on the topic of Toxic People with guest expert, Cindy Borrelli of Keystone HR. In the course of our conversation, I realized that part of the problem with working with toxic people is it gets so much worse when you don’t confront them early in the work relationship.
Get Comfortable with Uncomfortable Conversations
Distaste for uncomfortable conversations has ripple effects like these:
- not negotiating better terms for your new job
- drowning in work instead of asking for help
- saying “yes” when you want to say “no” (and vice-versa)
- failing to establishing boundaries early in a work relationship
What hit me when I heard McKevitt speak is that I hadn’t finished with that lesson. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is uncomfortable. And you have to KEEP doing it!
To borrow from comedian Jim Gaffigan, this is precisely why people don’t talk about Jesus. I’m not saying you need to talk about Jesus to bedazzle your career, but you do have to keep doing things that are uncomfortable at first it if you want to rescue your dreams. It’s just part of the process.
Get clear on the purpose: objective and superobjective.
Think in terms of the conversation objective and superobjective. The objective is message based: what is the desired outcome for this conversation? The superobjective (a term from Russian theatre trainer, Konstantin Stanislavski) is the longer-term, how do you want this relationship to develop? And the relationship can be between two people, or between a person and an organization.
In my own case, as Mixonian Institute grows, I find I now have to manage different people asking for my time on the same days, and having to say “no” to a particular engagement (objective) but while insisting I want to establish a client relationship (superobjective).
Write down the objective and superobjective to help you nail down what you really want. It’s like the battle and the war: you may lose a battle here and there and still win the war. Similarly, the outcome of any single conversation may not be exactly what you want but it moves your superobjective in the way the relationship and perceptions about you, develop.
2. Act as if you were relaxed.
Of course these uncomfortable conversations are NOT relaxing. Anything you can do to LOWER the anxiety (yours and the other’s) helps.
Breathe in slowly. Exhale. Count to 4 and repeat.
Look at your body and place it in the position of yourself being relaxed.
Detach from the outcome. Realize that regardless of how things play out, you’re becoming a stronger, more effective person and inspiring others to do the same.
3. Use the tool of contrasting.
Contrast is when things stand out because they’re different: black and white, red and blue, floral and stripe all contrast.
For uncomfortable conversations, my favorite contrast is “what I want and I do not want”. Use this for establishing WHY you having this conversation.
: I do want us to work together well. I don’t want to feel we are disrespecting each other.
: I want to get clear on how we are going to work together. I don’t want to dictate to you or feel like you are dictating the terms to me.
: I want you to be successful in this role. I don’t want you to be held back by a blind spot.
What’s the immediate upside to using these tools? You become a much stronger communicator and it becomes much easier to…
: say “no” to people who are asking you for time and energy
: ask for what you need at work (More on Asking here.)
: negotiate better terms
You become so bold it’s not even funny.
Action time: What uncomfortable conversation do you need to have?
Photo by Mark Adriane at Unsplash.