You want to get better at having more challenging and courageous conversations. What you’re doing now isn’t working so you’re looking for a better way, a way to hold a real conversation that actually leads to meaningful change. Like most people you’ve done your research and found that there’s no shortage of books to help you out:
Crucial Conversations, The Art of Conversation, Fierce Conversations, How to Talk to Anyone, You Just Don’t Understand!, That’s Not What I Meant!, are just a few.
And you’ve discovered that with rare exceptions, these approaches are externally rather than internally focused. They teach tips, strategies and approaches for how to engage and influence someone else during a moment of truth and make it productive, or at least better than last time.
While there is no doubt that some of these methods can work, they typically amount to no more than a shortcut around the much more significant and important conversation that needs to take place. That is the conversation within your self.
A more courageous conversation begins when we say “yes” to the invitation to examine the elements of our own individuality.
Instead of, “I will learn and employ this technique to get this person to respond in this way” (which is ultimately, if unintentionally a manipulative approach) what if a more personal and courageous set of questions was asked? Questions like,
- What am I doing to contribute to this situation?
- What responsibility do I have for what’s going on?
- What are my values and how are they feeling threatened or compromised right now?
- How confident do I feel about my work, position, authority or impact? How might I be acting out against some insecurity?
- What am I doing – what strengths am I using – when I’m at my best? Am I at my best right now?
- What stories do I tell about what should be happening? About what others think of me? About how I’ve been treated?
- How am I getting in my own way?
- Who’s help do I need?
- What am I afraid of? What’s really at stake?
This is just a start but it could be a powerful one. It’s certainly a challenging one. And what if you got yourself up for the challenge and began this conversation in earnest? What if you decided to firmly and totally believe – even against present evidence to the contrary – that your progress in holding a deepening conversation with yourself would become a fertile seed bed for the growth of more substantive interactions with all of your significant others?
There aren’t too many people who are willing to take this level of responsibility. There aren’t too many who are willing to adopt the attitudes of vulnerability, transparency, ownership and service that are required. But leaders are willing to do so, which is why authentic leadership is actually quite a rare thing.
What you’re doing now isn’t working so you’ve started looking for a better way, a way to hold a real conversation that actually leads to meaningful change. Stop looking outside of your self and start looking within.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.