Courage in conversations looks and sounds different for each person. For one individual, speaking to anybody takes courage. For another, chit chat comes easily but initiating an important conversation feels difficult and takes courage. Others feel fearful if they anticipate any conflict, so for them, engaging with someone with whom there could be conflict becomes exceedingly stressful. Some people handle conflict well but have difficulty showing/sharing anything vulnerable. They are comfortable with ideas but uncomfortable when feelings are expressed. For them, engaging in a conversation in which people are sharing real feelings takes a great deal of courage.
In a five day leadership course this past week called Introspection for Leadership Excellence, each person exhibited interpersonal courage. It was beautiful to experience each person working on their own edge to show up more authentically, to stand in their leadership shoes, and to risk being more of who they really are and want to be. Each time someone revealed themselves to the group, they were met with warmth, encouragement, and appreciation. Though we/they didn't express it as love, the way they each showed how much they respected, valued, admired, and believed in each other were expressions of love, at least in my book.
In this climate of acceptance and trust, taking risks to be courageous interpersonally was perhaps a little easier than in “real life.” The rewards were more apparent and it was easier to believe that the fears that normally hold us back would not come to pass.
However, no matter what, courage implies a risk. There is always a chance that your worst fears might be realized. If you take an interpersonal risk and are courageous, people could ignore you, ridicule or humiliate you, or just downright reject you. You have to feel as if you can handle the worst that could happen in order to be courageous.
This group of individuals could have played it safe all week in attempts to make a good impression on the others in their cohort. Instead, one by one, they chipped away at the walls they had erected to protect themselves and revealed more of the richness that lay inside. Some trembled as they were courageous. Others cried. Others were more measured. But each in their own way showed the many faces of courage...and magnificence.