What Is a Courageous Conversation?
A Courageous Conversation is a meaningful, candid, and clear discussion about a very important problem or issue—especially one that we may feel reluctant to talk about.
Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is choosing to act in spite of fear. When you approach these conversations using a tested framework, it will enhance your courage by giving you confidence that the conversation will result in a positive outcome.
The goal of a successful Courageous Conversation is not to appear unafraid by being aggressive or brazen when having uncomfortable conversations. Instead, you will use a disciplined, structured approach to manage the discomfort of all parties when having vital discussions.
How Do You Start a Courageous Conversation?
The most important aspect of a Courageous Conversation is preparation. You must first commit to using effective conversational skills and avoiding destructive behaviors, which may include minimizing, debating, controlling, competing, attacking, and avoiding.
Then, begin the conversation by talking with someone face-to-face when possible. Commit to listening actively in order to learn what the other person thinks. And be scrupulously polite, saying “please,” “thank you,” and so on.
Finally, be truthful, and start by explaining the big-picture situation as you see it. State what you need and ask for what you want, but also be willing to receive feedback by being open to the other person’s perspective and solutions. In fact, people feel more ownership of proposed actions when they contribute to them.
How Do You Start a Sensitive Conversation?
You can either set an appointment for a sensitive conversation or just drop by and start it. Either way, don’t try to start by building rapport, such as chatting about the family or making other small talk. Instead, be up front with the other party by saying, “I have a difficult topic to discuss with you” or something similar.
As you begin, address the sensitive nature of the topic. As you define the problem, avoid blame or personal attacks. Focus on solving the problem together by asking the other person for feedback and help.
Remember, when sensitive issues must be discussed, emotions can run high. Be prepared to follow Courageous Conversations guidelines while also being willing to change your conversational plan. Strive to hear and respect the other person’s point of view as much as your own—and without trying to prove the other party wrong.
What Makes a Conversation Difficult?
When we anticipate that a conversation will be challenging, yet we know someone needs direct feedback or coaching, we naturally may want to avoid it. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable, make someone feel bad, or be thought of in a negative way.
These types of conversations often seem difficult:
- Asserting your point of view about an important issue
- Telling employees they have not delivered results they are responsible for
- Delivering performance feedback to employees who need to hear it but seem to reject it
- Bringing up an uncomfortable issue that has been avoided for some time
- Revisiting a problem you have previously tried to resolve
- Expressing good ideas that have been consistently resisted
- Speaking to people who have badly misunderstood you before
- Discussing controversial issues
- Talking about a hidden mindset, attitude, or paradigm