So you are not getting along very well with that other person and your stress level is high.  You have decided it is time for “The Bigga” conversation.   Congratulations!  It takes incredible courage to even seriously consider it especially in conflict-reticent cultures, like what many of us experience here in Minnesota.  And can be extra challenging if people from different cultures are involved.

Many people would not even consider do what you are about to do. Take 10 seconds to appreciate your self and thank those who have helped you to become courageous.  Now what?….

You may be feeling some anxiety about how to begin.  You are about to talk to someone about something that is not going all that well from your point of view.  If you are sure the timing is pretty good then I have a few thoughts for you before you dive in.  If you are not sure about talking w/them then see “When NOT to have that Courageous Conversation.”

  1. Realize that addressing the situation is a Big Deal…meaning it takes courage and is risky, so congratulate yourself, proceed with care, and keep moving forward.
  2. Stay grounded and connected to your best self. Use whatever practice you have, talking to a friend/coach, meditation, breathing, movement, etc.  Plant yourself in your inner-wisdom and lead from there.
  3. Acknowledge the conflict within yourself. It is likely that part of you wants to do something, to intervene, and part of you does not want to do something.  That is a common and normal inner experience for agents of change like you.  Do not minimize the power of this inner conflict, or marginalize one of those inner voices.  This is subtle work.  You have to shut off the radio and TV.  Find ways to listen to both sides.  The breakthrough begins with you.
  4. Work with the conflict within yourself. This is not the same as acknowledging it.  Show empathy to yourself.  Do some deep inner dialogue with your differing parts, get some coaching, journal, use Process Work (a la Dr. Arnold Mindell), psychodrama, dream work, non-violent communication (NVC) or whatever works to let the various perspectives interact and find full expression in you.
  5. See the situation from their point of view. Before you address anyone, try to get into their shoes. Imagine the scene through their eyes, through their title, through their place of positional power.  Gain compassion for what it might be like from their perspective (remember positional power has both external and internal dimensions).
  6. Find out what beef they have with you. This may require a new level of honesty for you.  It is very likely that you have been doing, or not doing something that is irritating to them.  Find out what it is.  Guess into it or ask a true friend or coach for help.  Ask the person only if you have enough trust between you.
  7. Don’t forget to breathe. When we do courageous things at times we cease taking deep breaths, because of our anxiety.  If you notice feeling tense or yourself holding your breath, remember to let it also go.  Exercise or any movement, with intention, can help.
  8. Be clear about what you want them to be aware of or to do. Have a specific and clear request, write it down and have it on a piece of paper with you if that helps.  Make sure you are not doing this mostly to change them.  Share your feelings.
  9. Empathize with them. Imagine yourself saying things like “I want to talk to you about something important to both of us, and this isn’t easy for me to do…”  “I want to ask you a few questions, is that ok to do now?”  “Maybe this it is not easy for you either…but I firmly believe it is worth our time and attention.”  “I believe this could be a small beginning to a positive shift for your/our organization/community/family.”
  10. Identify and then share your feelings with them. This is harder to do in certain work and family cultures.  Don’t go way beyond what you think they can take in.   
  11. Be ready for resistance. A common reply to someone who is stirring the pot, which is what your actions may look like to them, is to say “we have it under control, thanks for your feedback” or, “sounds interesting, maybe we’ll think about that next year” or worse “this is not your business”…or worse yet, no returned call, no returned email, or just a smile and a nod and a “thank you.”
  12. Envision a miracle.    It is possible that you will fully resolve your differences and create a whole new relationship.  Dream big, and take what comes!

If you need a little support follow this recipe, give me a call or an email.   I look forward to hearing how it went.