With 70% of people avoiding difficult conversations and over 90% of employees reporting staying silent in challenging conversations over the last 18 months we really need to think of the personal cost to this avoidance.
There are a huge number of reasons that people avoid difficult conversations, but in the end most of them come down to some kind of fear:
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of their reaction
- Fear of how others might interpret what we say
- Fear of feeling or looking stupid
- Fear of being perceived as greedy
But have we ever really considered what this is costing us?
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Seneca
This is a pretty well known quote which is basically saying there is no such thing as just luck….
Many of us spend a lot of time in preparation mode (hello there perfectionists?) but hold ourselves back when the opportunities arise, because we feel awkward, and have those fears running through our brains
Some of us never do any preparation, so have no idea how to react to the opportunity…
Then we tell ourselves we’re never lucky….
Losing out to others
For some of us it is easier to just stay quiet, and hope that someone will recognise how much we deserve that next promotion, or new client etc
This isn't too surprising, at school we're basically taught that if we hand in good work we'll get good grades, and the teacher's authority is the only one that counts - so talking about our strengths, ideas, experience etc feels like boasting, and an unnecessary risk
But what happens when someone else does speak up in the conversation? Even though we or our ideas would have been the ideal solution, the other person gets what we wanted because we couldn't bring ourselves to speak up…
They could get your ideal promotion, that perfect job or that next client you should be working with!
How many times have you said to yourself "if only I had the time…."
We are time poor, and it’s the only thing we can never get more of - and yet many of us are unwilling to have a difficult conversation in order to protect our time.
- Do you find yourself doing things that you don't want to be doing?
- Going places you don't want to go?
- Doing things for other people and putting your own priorities last?
Is that because saying "no" just feels too uncomfortable?
In the short term, avoiding difficult conversations can feel like a good idea, but even then it will often lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration and resentment.
But over time it can lead to much bigger impacts, including loss of confidence, exhaustion, anxiety and depression - to name a few.
Our bodies were designed to use emotions as warning signs that something needs to change, but if we don't listen to those signs and take action then living in heightened awareness becomes our new normal - which is not a good thing.
So what can we do about it?
- Stop holding yourself back
Take responsibility for your own actions (or inactions)
This is really hard to do, especially after (probably) many years of letting things happen to us…
But a change of perspective to "how could I use this as an opportunity or learning" and then taking different action is really important
- Stop comparing ourselves to others
Comparison ultimately just makes us feel worse!
We have no idea what is going on in anyone else's life, their history, experiences, resources etc - so comparing ourselves is not even possible
You would be comparing yourself to what they want you to believe, not their actual truth.
Stay in your lane, it's much more rewarding.
- Practice saying no
Prioritising what's actually important to you, rather than what you think you should be doing, then saying no to anything else is hard - but liberating.
And once you start doing it people start respecting your boundaries more too - then you get even more of your time back, to chose how to spend it!
And if you find conflict a particularly challenging conversation, download my FREE resource Conflict Management: 5 things you NEED to know