Why are we so reluctant to share with people the very thing they need to know, the very thing that could alter their awareness and increase their level of success? Michele examines why we sometimes shy away from being honest and how to be helpful without being hurtful.
I had lunch with a good friend the other day and he told me a story about a longtime friend, we’ll call him Bob, he had been trying to help. Bob was in a bad place - bad divorce, lost his job etc. All in all, not a good time for Bob.
My friend helped Bob out by getting him a job and, sadly, within a couple of months Bob was let go. Ouch! Another blow for Bob. Bob had been told it was due to revenue - last guy in, first guy out...But that wasn't true. My friend had spoken to his contact and was given the "real" story. Bob was bringing the troubling state of his current life chapter to the office and was therefore not focused and not producing. Now, we all do that from time to time, but there is a point where it becomes detrimental. And as much as we don't like to point this out, there is a different line in the sand for how much baggage you can bring to work when you're the new guy.
I asked my friend if he was going to tell Bob the truth. And the unsurprising answer was "No!"
Why are we so reluctant to share with people the very thing they need to know?! The very thing that could alter their awareness and increase their level of success? Which, for those who know me, is the exact question I asked. The answer was some form of it’s not my story to tell.
And this, of course, is where the lunch got interesting. Because now poor Bob was being impacted by the weakness of two people. First, the lady that let him go and didn't tell him the real reason and secondly, by the friend who, although originally trying to be helpful, was holding hostage the one piece of information that might in fact...HELP.
At first glance, the not my story to tell argument seems pretty compelling. And it's a perfectly acceptable stance if gossip or malice is at the root of the topic. But, at second glance, the lack of desire to have, what I like to call, a Growth Conversation is likely based on fear disguised as one of the following concerns:
1) What if I hurt them or make them uncomfortable?
Which really means, what if they don't like me if I tell them something they don't want to hear? I understand this sentiment and it can be scary to risk your likability rating, but it's for the well-being of another person. This is where the cliché, they might not want to hear it but they need to hear it, can be powerful.
2) I don't like confrontation.
Who does? What's really going on here is you're avoiding things that make you feel uncomfortable. The truth is, amazing things can come out of situations that make us uncomfortable. Marathon runners would never get the experience of crossing the finish line if they didn't push through the discomfort of the last few kilometres!
3) They should already know!
Maybe. But I would not have a job and a client waiting list if we were all walking around fully aware of our impact.
4) What if I say it wrong?
Yes, having growth conversations does take practice. If you approach the conversation from a place of anger and frustration odds are the conversation will leave both participants feeling bad.
So does all that mean we shouldn't crank up the courage dial and try to have meaningful conversations with our teams, our colleagues, our friends? Ummmm. NO!
By following the guidelines below, you can ensure you will have a conversation that leaves you both feeling good and focused on possibility:
1) Be intentional
What is the desired outcome of the conversation? Is it to help someone be more successful? Have an easier time? Drive better results? Clarifying the outcome sets the TONE and integrity of the conversation and is the difference between being helpful and being judgmental.
2) Be Direct
Growth conversations are not conversations where you want to bury the message and hope they hear you. I have spoken with more leaders whose answer to the question, "Did they understand?", is " I think so." If you are going to take the time to have a growth conversation say what you need to say. Keep it simple and be direct.
3) Be open to the possibility that there may be a different perspective
Believing you are right or that you know the truth is always dangerous. Most of what we encounter is about perspective. Share yours and then ask for theirs. Dialogue can lead to powerful discovery.
I fundamentally believe that if more of us, both at work and at home, would look inside and find the courage to have a growth conversation, we truly would be living a life of service and contribution.
So today, be brave! My challenge to you is to be in service to someone by having a conversation that just may change their trajectory in a positive way.