The Idea: Most people have a fear of public speaking and difficult conversations. Avoiding stressful exchanges seems to be our go-to move; and it comes at a cost. Almost 20 percent of respondents say they have lost friendships or relationships with family members due to the inability to navigate difficult conversations. And it gets more personal: 43 percent of married couples avoid difficult dialogue because they fear it’s a catalyst for a fight. Discussion-avoidance is the bigger problem.

Research fielded by Globis and PDC Consulting highlights that 53 percent of managers report avoiding difficult conversations because they lack the training, experience, and confidence in handling such situations. A large majority of these leaders are seriously concerned about the stress created and an angry response from the person they are confronting.

“Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time” states author Susan Scott. “The conversation is the relationship,” says Scott, “if the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller.” We must all learn to practice fierce conversations – take off the mask and get to the root of the emotions or challenges with another person. It requires risk, and it is an essential leadership skill.

The Courage to Face Reality

We all struggle with sharing difficult news with people in our lives; fearing alienation or damaging important relationships. When we practice sharing reality, we build deeper, more trusting relationships. Scott shares the three phases of facing reality with another person:

  1. Identify the issue & proposed solution.
  2. Validate that you understand everyone’s perspectives and assumptions.
  3. Check for agreement, (resist defensiveness) and gathering everyone’s input.

Come Out from Hiding

It is difficult speaking candidly in a partnership when discussions have become toxic or if trust has been broken. That’s why we often dodge the conversation all together.
If you find yourself not confronting the truth with someone, you may have given away your power. So how do you get to the root? You must be willing to dig deep, protect the relationship while creating a safe space. The anatomy of a healthy discussion includes:

  • Name the Issue – Be concise & get to the root of the problem and what you’ve learned.
  • Describe It – share your emotions about the issue and how it affects you.
  • Clarify What is at Stake – Identify your contribution to this problem, and the ideal outcome.
  • Indicate your Wish to Resolve the Issue – ask partner to respond & share thoughts.

Susan Scott reminds us that “In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.”

Are you courageous enough to confront your most difficult relationships?

“Tackle your toughest challenge today. Burnout doesn’t occur because we’re solving problems; it occurs because we’ve been trying to solve the same problem over and over.
The problem named is the problem solved.”
Susan Scott – Fierce Conversations