Have you heard the one about the monastery where the monks can only speak two words every ten years?  A monk, after his first ten years, went to the abbot and said “Bed hard.”  The abbot said “Bless you my son, go in peace.”  Another ten years followed and the monk spoke his two words again, “Food awful!” Again the abbot replied, “Bless you my son, go in peace.”  Ten more years passed and the monk said, “I quit!!” And the abbot said “We’ll it is no surprise to me, you’ve been doing nothing but complaining for the past thirty years.”

It is hard to have a courageous conversation when you only say two words every ten years.  Yet this is what it is like, sometimes, here in the Midwest.  We hold our words well, and when we finally speak they can be dramatic.  “I quit!” and “You’re fired!” are messages we might hear after years of unhappiness and “un-had” conversations, at work or in a marriage.

There is another way.  We can model the courage to speak up, or to reach out, before things get to the quitting or firing point. Catch it earlier. The first time you have that unhappy feeling in your gut, or see someone suffering, explore what is happening. If you are triggered, work with yourself, get some support and consider talking to them.

This takes practice, focus and a willingness to breakthrough cultural norms.

You can do it.You can go to that person and have that conversation you know you need to have.  If you want some free assistance go here:  http://eschconsulting.com/before-the-bigga-conversation/

Or you might decide to not have that conversation (which is the default plan for most Minnesotans).  It just might be the best choice, given all the options.  See this article for some insights, to make sure you are not just avoiding your chance to “swallow the frog.”

When NOT to Have That Courageous Conversation

The un-had conversations are costly on multiple levels.  In extreme cases they can lead to the sort of violence we read about in the paper all the time.  Speak calmly and courageously to that person.  Include your intentions and your feelings and your needs, with an open heart.  You will be planting powerful seeds.

Though it feels scary, sometimes really, really scary, you can get through this and speak with that other challenging person.  And do not forget, there is a good chance you are challenging for them.

You can do this.  I believe in you.  Believe in yourself.

And be in touch, I’d like to know how your conversational experiments are going.

Tom Esch