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Myths that stall conversations - and what to do about them

What stops you from having difficult conversations?

You know that in order to keep moving forward you need to address some issue. Yet, the specter of a difficult conversation holds you back.

Ironically, most often, the conversation in your head convinces you not to speak up. Perhaps, you can identify with thoughts like these:

  • It’s better if I pretend everything is fine

  • X always/never [fill in the blank]

  • They will think __________ about me

  • It will change our relationship

  • I keep trying, but X never changes

If you found some that sound familiar, you are not alone in your beliefs. However real they may seem to you, they are myths, covering up risks. These risks include things like fear of ridicule, reprisal, and blow ups, loss of status or relationship, or other form of vulnerability. These usually have little to do with the actual conflict.

To resolve conflict you’ve got to raise your issues with the actual person. That means taking those underlying risks.

Four steps to help the risk averse get started:

  1. Increase your safety. When the “fight or flight” part of your brain kicks in, you can respond by calming yourself, slowing your breathing, relax your mind and body,

  2. Separate the emotion from the issue. Conflict is just two different ideas trying to occupy the same space. The more you can allow the tension without having to fix it or win, the more likely you’ll get a really creative outcome

  3. Expect differences and get really curious about them, revealing your needs and wants along the way. The more you increase your curiosity, the easier it will be to explore the differences and commonalities.

  4. Experiment. Make the encounter a learning situation for yourself. You don’t have to do it perfectly the first time out.

If your team is stalled by conflict, contact me.

I help teams get back on track, talk about tough topics, and resolve discord, so they can do their great work. Here's a sample of recent topics I've helped with: a business partner agreement to buy/sell, talk to the children about succession, give partners or employees feedback, change long-standing habits, move into much smaller space.


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