Let’s face it, we have all found ourselves disagreeing with a friend, family member or co-worker. Perhaps this disagreement happened inside your head because you found yourself not knowing how to approach the other person about the conflict. Perhaps you spoke up and shared your opinions about your opposing view, but wish the conversation had gone a different way. Perhaps you consider yourself a pro at confronting other individuals when you disagree and navigating a conversation to have a healthy outcome. No matter which statement resonated with you, it is inevitable that you will be faced with difficult conversations and/or conflicts with other individuals throughout your life.
Being able to have an uncomfortable conversation or vocalize your opinions respectfully and confidently are skills that are invaluable throughout life. As a sorority member, what sets these instances apart is that you and a sister are both part of the same organization with the same values. Although these values can be lived differently and some values may be held higher than others depending on the individual, these values give you a bond with your sister and common ground when coming to a confrontation or tough discussion.
There have been plenty of times where I have wanted to confront someone – a sorority sister, my biological sister or a colleague – but I have been afraid. Afraid of what, you ask? The list could go on and on, but a condensed version is the fear of losing the relationship, the fear of being wrong, the fear of not knowing what to say or how to support the other person. But, I have also learned that being afraid is no way to go through life though.
I recently taught my first yoga class after training to be a yoga teacher for nearly 10 months and practicing for seven years. I was so nervous to lead my first class that I kept putting it off even though it has been a dream of mine for years. The fear of messing up, not giving attendees their desired outcome and coming off as not knowing what I was talking about were some of the fears standing in my way. Following my class, the first thought that popped into my mind was, “Why did I wait so long to do that?”
A tough conversation can be scary and uncomfortable, but it should not be avoided and be the reason you keep putting it off. I find the more I think about putting off the conversation the harder it is to have. Instead, I encourage you to challenge yourself to not put these talks off. Have the courage and the vulnerability to conquer your fears. Who knows, maybe this conversation could help lead you one step closer to your goals. If not your goals, hopefully having this conversation will take a weight off your shoulders and help you move forward.
Here are four steps to navigate these conversations:
Sometimes, we put off tough conversations because we don’t know how to start or how to navigate the conversation. Spend time writing out what you want to say, practice in the shower or while getting ready in the morning. You want to be clear about the issue and know your desired outcome. Ask yourself, “What exactly is the behavior or comment that is causing the problem?” and “What is the impact the behavior or comment is having on you, the chapter or team?” Hard conversations can often be difficult because we want to skirt around the issue. As you practice remember the following slogan: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
2. Learn how to really listen
Brene Brown is an expert I turn to when thinking about how to have tough conversations. In her book Braving the Wilderness, she states, “I believe one of the most courageous things to say in an uncomfortable conversation is, ‘Tell me more.’” Exactly when we want to turn away and change the topic. We also have the opportunity to ask what else we need to fully understand the other person’s perspective.” Brown suggests that we ask questions like, “Help me understand why this is so important to you,” and listen with a genuine desire to understand where they are coming from.
3. Look forward
Addressing an issue does involve looking backward at what occurred. However, sometimes we can get caught up in the blame game or find ourselves judging. Instead, look at the facts, but focus on preserving the relationship and how to move on.
4. Live your values
Part of the reason I joined a Panhellenic organization was to challenge myself to be better every day and after joining Delta Gamma that phrase developed into “do good” every day. Tough conversations are hard. Sometimes, I don’t want to have conversations that make me feel uncomfortable or make me question if the relationship can handle it. That is when I remind myself of my personal values and the shared values I have with Delta Gamma.
As we know, difficult conversations are an inevitable part of life, but they also offer opportunities for growth. Being able to engage in tough or uncomfortable conversations is a life skill. Successfully negotiating a challenging conversation will give you a sense of a personal accomplishment or a learning experience to do better next time. Next time you are faced with a conversation that makes you want to run in the opposite direction take a moment to pause and lean into the challenge. Without practice and making mistakes there is no possibility for growth.