Recently, Jackie and I, who have been working together for three years, were brave enough to have a courageous conversation about creating a more fulfilling and communicative relationship. Like many courageous conversations, ours began with a misunderstanding. Then, we both made up some emotion driven stories in our own minds about what the other person was thinking, feeling, and expecting. Those stories left us both in that “icky space” of not feeling connected to our work or to each other as colleagues who value each other both professionally and personally.
Many of us seek to experience and live a life full-filled with creative, supportive, and generative relationships like Jackie’s and mine. We desire success in our work together, amazing experiences at home and abroad, as well as good health and peace in our bodies. As much as we think about our goals and desires and we make our own plans, we live in the world with other people who also have their own goals and desires. What happens when our misunderstandings (miscommunications or lack of communication) lead to feeling out of sync with each other?
We’re still wired with the flight or fight responses of our ancestors, so when we face opposition or a relationship that is out of alignment with our desired outcomes, our automatic and uninspired response is often out of the fear that we won’t get what we want. We choose to abandon ourselves and allow the needs of others to take precedent, muddy the space between us and the other by using protective strategies we learned early in our lives, such as becoming defensive, showing contempt, make excuses or fight to be right.
These moments are where we have the opportunity to create the full-filled life we want and make a conscious decision to shift from our fear to our commitment to being in healthy relationships. This requires courage. Courage gives us the inspiration to have the conversations we need, even in the messiest of situations. Messy conversations can deepen relationships if we allow ourselves to get past the fear and create a space for us to speak our desired outcomes for the sake of growing our relationships.
Because Jackie and I have a shared commitment to being in “right relationship” within ourselves and with the people in our lives, we made the decision to be brave and talk about how we felt and what we needed. We were able to offer each other our full listening to what the other needed both personally and professionally. What resulted from our messy conversation was better shared agreements on how and when we communicate and an understanding of what we need to feel honored in our work together.
So, how did we do this and how can you? How can we shut down our autopilot and make a conscious choice for the courage to ask the questions smoldering in our hearts and speak our truth to each other, even when that’s difficult?
Look back on the most meaningful moments in your life. Can you find times where you felt safe to discuss your thoughts? Your opinions? Your feelings? See if you can put yourself in those moments again, now. Can you experience that feeling in your body again in the present?
What did the other person offer you or what did you offer the other person that brought safety to that conversation? How can you offer that to yourself and others in the present mess?
Realize that fear is literally an uninspired place to live. When we’re in fear mode, our breathing is quick and shallow. Moving out of fear is as simple as inspiration. Breathe In, slowly. As you breathe, slowly, bring your mind and body back to the present moment where you can feel your feet on the floor. Remember you are heading in to this conversation because you want to improve the relationship.
If you have the story that the other person may act or react in a certain way, practice the response you’d like to offer to them from your place of safety and partnership to create a meaningful moment. Then, envision the end of the conversation. Imagine that it turns out serving the highest and best for all concerned. How will you feel? How would you picture the other person would feel?
Sometimes, messy conversations happen when we can’t plan for them. Make a commitment to practice being present in the present. We spend so much time on our schedules and calendars, yet, the only thing we can truly plan is our presence. When you commit to offering your focused presence in the present, you will quite simply have the kind of conversations you need and want to have.
Reaching out for the full potential in a business or personal relationship may spark a generative fire, it may give closure to something that has upset you or help you to understand another person’s needs better.
Be the one who has the courage to have the conversations that matter.