I used to get all tied up in knots trying to find the right words before I would approach difficult conversations.
I’d spend so much energy thinking through both sides of various conversations, trying to predict and plan and prepare for how things might go.
That was until I heard Marshall Rosenberg say that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.
What a relief: I can do many things badly.
Demanding that I do things well or say things right used to be so inhibiting. I would avoid challenges, give up easily and ignore useful negative feedback.
Sociologist Benjamin Barber once said, “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures… I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.”
But, learning is painful when you are met primarily with judgment, criticism and evaluation. If we want to embrace a growth mindset, we need a new way of talking to ourselves and others.
These days, I am much more willing to just dive in and get messy. I’ve surrendered myself to simply being in the middle of a continual process.
I’ve found it helpful to identify a few principles and phrases that help keep me humble, connected and learning. If you are approaching a difficult conversation, you may want to try one of them out:
1. Just Be Clumsy
“I might be clumsy as I approach this, but please bear with me as I try …”
Sometimes, it helps to just be transparent about our struggles and our intentions. Saying something as simple as, “I might be clumsy as I approach this, but please bear with me as I try …” can go a long way towards more connection and building trust.
When we acknowledge that we really don’t have it all figured out yet, and are asking the other person to work with us, we are more likely to create willingness and openness in return. Allow yourself to do things clumsily.
2. Own Your Bristle
“I know I bristled when …”
Speak with self-responsibility when you approach a charged topic. You might say something like, “I know I bristled at that comment; I think a lot of things came up for me in that moment …” When we can name our bristle, we neutralize its power and charge. We reclaim our power. We stop behaving like victims.
3. Speak in Three Time Zones
“I used to … I’d like to … I’m trying to …”
Anytime you are trying to change a dynamic, it can be helpful to acknowledge your shared history, be transparent about your vision for the future and ask for something concrete in the present.
“I used to get reactive and irritated when you brought this subject up in the past; I want to figure out a way to approach this with more ease in the future. I am trying to respond with more curiosity and openness now, and am wondering if you could tell me more about … / are open to hearing more about … ”
4. Highlight Positive Impact
“It means a lot to me to hear you say…”
When something moves you, shifts you or is important to you, let the other person know.
A few simple words like, “It means a lot to me to hear you say…” can work wonders in building trust and understanding. It also helps to focus on what is going well and what is helping to move things forwards, instead of habitually focusing on problems.
On October 14th, I will be spending a whole day exploring some of these concepts and conversation tools in much more depth. Want to face your fears and use them as stepping stones into courageous, empowered action? Sign up now.
OK, now it’s your turn to tell me:
What phrases have you found helpful in changing relational and conversational habits? I’d love to know …
Leave a comment below!