#39 – The Real Conversation

Open. Authentic. Honest. Vulnerable. Expressive. Sometimes painful, always a catalyst for new learning.

The real conversation is the one below the surface of the one that is familiar and comfortable.

It is the one hinted at but only entered into when two people agree to ask the un-askable questions give the un-giveable answers.

I am a deeply privileged human being in so many ways. One of those for which I am most thankful is that the “real conversation” is explicitly stated in my job description.

It is an expectation of my professional interactions that I have – and help others to have – real conversations because they are the ones that lead to lasting change. And the degree to which people trust me to do so, the ways in which they willingly, if often tenderly and cautiously, enter into territory that has been perceived as off limits, is humbling beyond measure.

It helps me to appreciate how deep our shared need is for more authentic connection. It also makes me optimistic that the more we work together to meet that need the more likely we are to meet other needs as well.

This is #39 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.” Care for one more?

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close up photo of water

Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

Make it Real

“What’s a next step?” is the question that makes the plan real.

I knew I wanted to become a capable and confident speaker in my field. I knew I wanted opportunities to speak on leadership and change and the kind of organizational cultures that never stop learning how to be better at both.

I wanted to speak at conferences, inside organizations, in higher education, anywhere there was a curiosity to explore these ideas and the many questions that surround them.

I saw myself in the front of the room and on the stage. I just didn’t know how to get from where I was to that reality. So I constructed a development plan, a plan that held my vision of high competence and confidence as a voice of authority about my professional passion.

That plan was thoughtfully imagined and constructed. It was forward-looking and future focused. It allowed me to take an idea that was disconnected from my experience and help me to see how to bridge that gap.

And then, just when I needed it most, just when I was lost in the reverie of what might be, I was asked the hardest of all questions: So, what’s your next step?

This is the moment when my plan met reality because the options were endless: research where to speak, hire a coach, make phone calls, prepare an outline, prepare an abstract, clarify my point of view through conversation with colleagues, watch videos of great speakers, title a speech for publication (much harder than it sounds!), film a practice session, etc.

Each of these actions, none of them wrong, all of them right, represented the hardest step in my plan for a preferred future state; the next one.

That moment when I realized that what I had envisioned – and all of the possibility and opportunity it contained – depended on a single next step? That is the moment that my future became real.

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.