Practicing courageous communication
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins
Effective communication is a pillar of meaningful human interactions whether personally or at work. Depending on the topic and the emotional attachment to that topic, communication may require great courage. What may make one person shake with fear may not phase another.
Questions I normally get are:
• How do I negotiate a salary and benefits package on a new job?
• How do I ask for a raise?
• How do I ask for feedback about my performance?
• How do I ask why I didn’t get promoted?
• How do I talk to an employee about their performance?
• How do I tell an employee they are just not cutting it in this job?
Here are some ways I have found successful in helping you communicate with courage in fearful, challenging, and even difficult situations.
Examine what you are feeling very carefully. It is very important to understand what you feel and where you feel it in your body so you can face it and address it properly. This is something I do in one of my coaching programs: making time to listen to and process your feelings. Why is this necessary? To be emotionally intelligent is to first be self-aware – learning how to identify and understand what you feel. Where is the fear coming from? Why are you putting off this conversation? Why are you avoiding the person? Why are you prepared to accept what is less than what you deserve? Why do you fear the person you have to speak with.
Secondly, where you experience it in your body helps you to get in tune with physical manifestations of your emotions. What we sometimes may classify as illness may really be your body responding to thoughts or situations. Do you sweat a lot? Do you have tight muscles in your shoulders, neck or back? Experience tightness in the chest or stomach, nausea, or headache, even anxiety? Stop and listen to your body and address the emotions and beliefs that are triggering this reaction. Doing this will better prepare you to go into the conversation with greater awareness and confidence.
Visualize how you want to show up in the conversation. Another great way to succeed at difficult conversations is to visualize how you want to be in the conversation. If you know you feel fearful or inadequate, see yourself how you want to be – confident, calm, clear, courageous. People who are fearful tend to come off as a bully or an aggressor which is a false sense of bravado. Or, others may be passive to the point of withdrawing at the slightest opposition or passive aggressive – being manipulative or not fully truthful. Adjust your body language accordingly as well so you are able to give good eye contact, sit or stand well, and control your vocal tone and volume. What you can imagine you can make real. This really works!
Determine and visualize the outcome you want from the conversation. Once you have analyzed your feelings and can see yourself mastering this moment, determine the outcome you want. Stephen Covey refers to this as ‘begin with the end in mind’. Do you want a raise? Do you want approval for a project? Do you want funding for your business? This will help you to clarify what you need to say in the most succinct and influential way possible before you even begin. You will know if the conversation goes in a different direction if you will need to say something else to get it back on track.
Go for it! Bite the bullet and have the conversation, already! You have prepared, you are ready and you are good for it.
Evaluate how it went and celebrate every victory. Evaluating your results is way different from beating yourself up for hours on end about the conversation. Please note there is a key difference here. Being your own worst critic is crippling and not helpful. Assessing your performance is healthy. You can see what worked, what didn’t work, and plan your strategy for your next big conversation to be even better. Lastly, celebrating your wins is a must. Celebrate the fact that you built up the courage to have the conversation. Celebrate that you did the work to get to that point, and celebrate the fact that you got results. In the words of Jim Rohn, “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”
Courageous communication is possible and vital to improving self-worth and relationships in every aspect of life.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, personal development coach, mentor, and activist who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals ‘live limitless’ by identifying purpose & vision, aligning to purpose through authenticity, and breaking free of limiting mindsets and practices. For comments, queries, strategic solutions, and bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.