Courage is a resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
- Mark Twain
It makes a lot of sense that people feel frightened about bringing up touchy subjects with people they love or with whom they work. If the conversations go south, there is a lot at stake. So, better shove it under the rug and hope it goes away. Right? Wrong.
Issues that are unresolved and are shoved under the rug gather dust and eventually go away. No, wait. They don't go away. They get bigger and when the dust ball is discovered, it is harder to address because it is bigger and more convoluted. The negative stories that had been fabricated about the issue have been elaborated even though you had pushed it under the rug.
So, much better to muster the courage to address the issues when they arise. The question then becomes, how do we address the issues such that we have constructive dialogues that improve or deepen our relationships—or at least do no harm. I imagine that most people reading this are aware that this is no easy feat.
In my estimation, here is what it takes:
- Awareness of Myself: I have a thought or feeling that I want to express.
- Awareness of the Other(s): The expression of my thought or feeling might create an unwanted reaction in the other(s).
- Positive Intent: I have an end in mind that benefits the other person(s) and me.
- Self-Regulation: I am able to manage my reactivity; I am able to quiet my nervous system so that I get off the survive side of the choice tree and onto the thrive side of the choice tree.
- Self-Reflection: I am able to engage in root cause analysis to look for and discover what might be driving my thoughts or feelings that have been unconscious.
- Right Speech: I am able to use language that connects us rather than divides us.
- Deep Listening: I listen to the other(s) and get curious.
- Empathic Bridge: I use empathy to let the other(s) feel that I understand their position and we are connected.
- Staying on Track: I monitor myself and the conversation, doing my best to bring myself back to my positive intention and keeping us on the path to understanding and resolution.
- Appreciation: I express gratitude to the other(s).
Though it takes a great deal of attention, intention, and commitment to execute, it is well worth the effort. Relationships flourish, the work in which we are engaged (professional or personal) is able to move forward more easily, and you or I who mustered interpersonal courage feels a gratifying sense of accomplishment. Congratulations in advance.