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One Small Tweak to Enhance this Life Skill


Share this blog with your friend who wants to be more masterful at having hard conversations.


Today we're talking about Intention. 


If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. 


"Any road" does not lead to mastery, to a sense of inner calm. 


Narrowing the field/being specific, one decision at a time, does. 


Being specific requires intention.


Intention is defined as an aim, a plan, a thing intended. 


In my work with clients, getting tripped up around the intention of a hard conversation is common.


Most commonly, my clients are struggling to use their voice, doubting whether or not to share their experience, wasting a lot of energy in the process, and losing confidence.


What often comes up is that the intention for the hard conversation is to change the other person/situation. This is a common misconception. The intention is external. 


Specifically, I hear something like this. “There’s no point in telling my boss, Jennifer, how I feel because she’s never going to change.”


Let me offer an alternative.


Intentions are best when they are internal.


To continue with the example of Jennifer.


Sharing what's true for you isn't about Jennifer. It's about you.


If you make it about Jennifer you give away your power because you can’t change Jennifer. You can change you.


You have to decide if it's necessary or important to use your voice, for you, not for anyone else. If it’s no longer about changing Jennifer, ask yourself, What is my intention for sharing this information with her? Get quiet with yourself. This is where a coach, mentor, therapist comes in really handy. This step takes practice and discipline.


If Jennifer was my boss, I might choose to share my experience. This is someone I spend an extraordinary amount of time with and who impacts my daily experience. If I stand for courage and trust and engagement, not scarcity, distrust and disengagement, it might make sense to share the wrinkle so I don’t create unnecessary chaos.


Said simply, How the heck could I spend every working day with Jennifer and not tell her how I'm feeling?


Let’s say the wrinkle is that I don’t understand how to work with a piece of software and when Jennifer talks to me about it I get defensive.


Here’s an example of what I might say:


Jennifer, I want to have a conversation about how we might partner together on helping me to better understand this software. I’ve been having a hard time with it and I’m noticing that I feel defensive anytime you ask me about it. I’m also then resentful towards you and your leadership, which is unfair, and I apologize for that. I’d love some further training so I can better support cross-functional partners in this area and have greater peace of mind that I’m taking ownership of the situation. What is your experience of leading me through this software transition?


Few tips:


1. I did not use the word you. I kept it about my experience. The moment I say "you do this, you do that," I have put Jennifer on the defensive and lost the moment for a meaningful conversation. Use "I" not "you."


2. The first sentence states my intention. It’s a great opening phrase that you can adapt to fit your needs. It feels inclusive…”partner together.” 


3. After you share your experience of a situation always follow up with asking about their experience. This is a time to listen. 


4. Some of you might still be thinking, "There's no way Jennifer would take this well so what's the point?” This isn't about changing Jennifer. This is about you. You share this without any expectation of change from her. In doing so, you heighten your self-esteem because you spoke up and addressed your needs, and you created *the potential* for things to get better with zero expectations that they will. Hint, they do get better not because Jennifer has changed (although she might), but because you demonstrated integrity. 


Also, if Jennifer were to respond poorly, I would advise you to keep it simple and say, "That was not my intention. I'm really sorry you took it that way." You could then re-state your intention. If things get heated, I would remind you not to engage so you can get out with your integrity intact. Jennifer's response has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her.


Remember, you get to choose when and where to use your voice. Quiet reflection gives clarity to room to breathe. In my own life, and in the lives of my clients, every time we are willing to have a hard conversation we are the better for doing so.


Keep you intentions internal and you'll be much more effective.


Comment below how this helps you navigate hard conversations moving forward.


Much Love,

Sarah x


p.s. interactive confidence workshop