What’s your Missing Conversation?

by | Sep 19, 2019 | Leadership

When I’m working 1-1 with professionals, I often discover a Missing Conversation. For example, there was the finance manager who wanted to know her prospects for promotion yet was afraid to have the conversation with her manager because they might think she was being “pushy”.

Or the Director who was frustrated at how a senior colleague was dominating meetings with a client they were working with. She was afraid about how he’d respond and so just did her best to get on with the job whilst avoiding him as much as possible.

They both went over and over it in their heads, torn between frustration and doubt as to whether it was worth speaking up, let alone actually having a conversation.

Noise in your head

Remember the radios in the old days (well, not that old, but hopefully some of you will know what I mean!) where you had to tune into a radio station by dialling the knob and you had a horrible static noise if you were inbetween stations? That worry and rumination is like that static noise : no clarity but very pervasive!

Fear of offending

As humans, we’re wired to maintain connection with others and so it’s natural to want to avoid the possibility of provoking an emotional response like anger or upset – essentially generating a feeling of what many term “conflict”.

In addition, research tells us that women put greater weight on emotional connections than men – in other words, they’re more attuned to others’ body language and more worried about offending people than men are.

What I find is with the individuals I work with is that, even if they know they need to have a conversation with one or more people, their concern for how they’ll say it and how it will be received overrides what they actually want to say.

What’s your Missing Conversation?

What do you need to say and to whom? Here’s a couple of tips to recover your Missing Conversation :

  • Spit it out! Using a friend or partner or coach – or even the mirror! – say what you really want to say, knowing it’s a safe space. No holds barred. I find that this alone will help you articulate what you want to get across, takes the power away from it and help you see the negative emotions you’re experiencing. You can finesse it later. For the finance manager I worked with, this came out as, “I want you to tell me whether or not I am in line for promotion, and, if not, what I need to do about it.”
  • How important is it to have this conversation : Ask yourself, “What’s the outcome I want here? What do I want the other party to think, feel and do? How important is this for you to express? What are the consequences of not saying it?”
  • Bold is beautiful : Often what you think sounds too blunt is actually clear and to the point. The professionals I work with are often so worried about how their message will come across that they have a tendency to package it beyond a point where their message is recognisable!

    What the finance manager said in practice was something like, “I’m really keen to progress in the company. I’d appreciate you sharing your feedback on my performance, discussing what my career options are and what I need to do to get there.”

A final quote from Malala : “There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”

What’s the Missing conversation you’re going to have?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do drop me a line at alison@alisonreid.co.uk

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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps new Directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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