Ingredients of Interpersonal Courage

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:

  1. Awareness of Myself: I have a thought or feeling that I want to express.
  2. Awareness of the Other(s): The expression of my thought or feeling might create an unwanted reaction in the other(s).
  3. Positive Intent: I have an end in mind that benefits the other person(s) and me.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Right Speech: I am able to use language that connects us rather than divides us.
  7. Deep Listening: I listen to the other(s) and get curious.
  8. Empathic Bridge: I use empathy to let the other(s) feel that I understand their position and we are connected.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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