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How Not To Have A Fierce Conversation

I have been reading the book Fierce Conversations. It has helped me to have a much more direct approach to difficult conversations, especially the ones that you really want to put off because they are so uncomfortable.

Recently at Integrum we have been undergoing a lot of deep, radical change, more about that in a later post. This has required me to have some very honest conversations with my entire team, much of it unpleasant. I don’t like confrontation; I don’t like to tell people that they need to move on (as in: time to work somewhere else). I’ve had to do that many times in the last few months. Reading this book has completely changed my approach. I don’t have it down to a science yet, and it’s not my first inclination, but I’m working hard to improve myself and my communication style.

Interestingly enough, today I got a letter in the mail: no return address, unfamiliar handwriting on the front. Anthrax jokes ensued. What was inside was almost as dangerous.

Jade
Jade everyone really likes and respects you. No one is denying you have a great business model with Gangplank and Integrum. But lately a day doesn’t go by without hearing something negative you have said about someone else. It seems your ego is getting in the way of your business. It hardly seems that the founder of Gangplank should be bad mouthing people constantly. We know you are smart, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is stupid. The foundation you are seeking to build is exactly the foundation you are destroying.

After the initial shock wore off, I started thinking… Wow, thank you anonymous person (that’s sarcasm by the way, one of my greatest gifts (that’s double sarcasm, Inception sarcasm)). It’s great that you feel that way, but now what? How do I ask questions? How do I get real feedback? Am I really doing this? This kind of Anonymous complaining is not helpful at all. It saddens me that whoever wrote this thought they were being courageous by sending this letter, but in reality, revealed the opposite. Engaging in a direct conversation addressing your issues with someone is one of the bravest things you can ever do.

Derek Neighbors recently wrote a post called You Can’t Handle The Truth, where he talks about dealing with people’s criticism of you. He states you have two choices Ignore the Criticism, or Fix the Problem. The challenge with Anonymous feedback is it’s impossible to know what to do… you can only look inside your own mind. It’s very difficult to be completely honest with yourself. How can you not be influenced by your own perceptions?

No man was ever so much deceived by another as by himself.
– Fulke Greville

So how do I deal with something like this? The honest truth is I don’t let things like this bother me too much. I try every day to be the best person I know how to be. Somedays I am a failure, but the path to being human is about the grace we extend to each other every new day, and challenging each other to rise to new heights. We are losing this skill as a race; too afraid to challenge, too afraid to speak up, too afraid to sign your own name. That’s why I’m publishing this here, radical transparency is scary, I really don’t want everyone to know that someone thinks these kinds of things about me. What will my mother say?

Here’s to pushing myself and to a better tomorrow!

The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.
– Mark Twain