How many times do you find an excuse not to have an important conversation? What excuses do we give ourselves?
As a principal I had conversations all day. Conversations about student learning and achievement.
“All conversations are with myself and sometimes they involve other people.” – Susan Scott
A lot of the conversations I wasn’t having with others, I was having with myself. They kept me up at night. I thought about how the other person would react, then what I would say. During my morning commute to work, I would think about the conversation I needed to have with a teacher and how it was going to play out, it never ended well. I gave myself the excuse that I had too much to accomplish that day, so I pushed it out another day.
We all have these conversations with ourselves. I had them all the time at school. Here’s one example. After not sleeping for days, I knew I had to have a fierce conversation about the negative impact she was leaving on colleagues- several of them. I scheduled a conversation to talk, I knew I needed to address the behavior immediately. When Natalie arrived in my office, I shared feedback I received from her colleagues; how others felt as she yelled at them. She listened carefully and began to cry. She was so sad to know that she left this impact on her fellow colleagues and didn’t know how to respond in a way that would -support change while still maintaining the relationships.
This was the real surprise for me-the unexpected turn in the conversation. The unrehearsed turn I thought to myself “I can help with this and THIS is certainly not the conversation I had with myself the last several nights!”
We talked through next steps and I gave her a formal written warning for her behavior. She received the feedback with grace and appreciated that we had the conversation. I was able to express my desire for her to remain on the team and speak with clarity regarding the behaviors that needed to change.
Our relationship changed that day. Natalie said she knew I would always be honest with her, even when it was a tough conversation that we needed to have. I also knew she valued feedback and she would provide me with the same. We became very close conversation partners. To this day, we still call each other when we need a trusted advisor before we have the conversations with our colleagues, family and friends. There are fewer sleepless nights and a strong, authentic relationship that we’ve created.
When we let go of the excuses and come to conversations openly, we have a lot to gain.
What is at stake to gain if you have the conversation and it goes well?
Tip to use with Students: Kids can read you and they know when you aren’t saying what needs to be said. Give honest and direct feedback. How do you most clearly deliver your message, while still building the relationship?
Try laying out exactly what is taking place and the implications it has on them, you, and the rest of the school. Remember, don’t use blaming language, you are there to have an impactful conversation that changes his/her life.