The challenge seemed easy this week, until yesterday! Lack of sleep, exercise, being snowed in at home with a long to-do list and toddler meltdowns was enough to make me almost lose it. Plus, I woke up in a less than bright mood. The words, “be intentional”, scrolled through my mind.
When my 3-year old, Niko, is in a bad mood and wants to stay there, I tell him "it’s okay to feel you’re in a bad mood, and it’s your choice to stay there. It’s okay to feel crummy – and it’s not okay to take it out on others."
The impact of our words and their delivery – our body language, tone – can be stunning. Yesterday, I was reminded that there is no excuse to talk with someone in a way that causes harm.
Regardless of how I feel about something, I can share my perspective – even frustration - in a way that doesn’t damage the relationship. Otherwise, I’ll find myself more frustrated by the clean-up work I have to do in the aftermath.
The bottom line for me is - in case I ever want to make excuses for bad behavior - I know if I don't practice delivering a message without a load attached, I won't grow the kinds of relationships I want in my life. I won’t be the kind of person to whom people will commit at the deepest level. And lastly, my message won't get heard.
When I’m flooded by emotions, before speaking, I try to ask myself some key questions:
1. What is my intent? What is my intention in this conversation and my desired outcome? Connecting with it helps me be mindful about what I’m going to say before the words come out.
2. What is my outlook? I try to do what I call a quick "context check" at the start of the day. Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed? What is my outlook today – positive or negative? My outlook drives my behavior and results. If it’s negative, how can I make another choice and better navigate conversations?
3. Am I getting triggered? It’s easy to get triggered in a conversation. I need to recognize it when I do, and for goodness sake, stop speaking and take a breath. Then ask questions to let my curiosity replace judgment.
4. What if I make a mistake? I know that if I get sloppy with my emotional wake, I owe the other person an immediate apology – whether a co-worker, a spouse or my child. No excuses. I don't gain respect without giving it
Fierce Conversations are not about being ferocious in our conversations, they are about saying what we need to say in a way that moves the relationship forward - with skill, clarity, conviction and compassion.
I expect to hold my feet to the fire and have high expectations of my behavior, and I hold others able to do the same. It’s a matter of personal responsibility and it’s necessary – to move our work, our families and our communities forward.
Maya Angelou said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."
That’s enough to motivate me.
We’d love to know: how did you do this week?