Some people are easy to talk to, right?
Some conversations are helpful, entertaining, informative and others, upon reflection, seem to have been about a subject that was never mentioned.
Did you imagine it?
What is a difficult conversation? Is it the topic?
No because we have also had the experience of discussing a topic we didn’t want to talk about but afterwards felt freer, lighter and at peace.
An awkward conversation is when we want to accomplish something other than what we are saying.
Telling my spouse, “You are not doing your share of the housework,” is not awkward.
Telling my spouse, “You are not doing your share of the work” and also wanting him not to get angry or point out my shortcomings, makes it awkward.
Reminding my employees that their food must be cleared out of the break room every week is not awkward.
Reminding my employees that their food must be cleared and also not wanting them to think I am secretly judging the candy and cookies they eat at work, is what makes it awkward.
An awkward conversation is when we want two things to happen.
We want the break room clean AND we don’t want anyone to feel judged.
We don’t want their reactions.
What do you mean by that?
What are you trying to say?
Why are you telling me that now?
Seth Godin uses the example of a fire. You could scream at people, “Get out now!” and it wouldn’t be awkward, no matter what those people thought of your tone, or what you really meant, or whether you thought they were productive or not.
You don’t care what they think, because you are trying to help them with no additional agenda.
My clients often tell me that they are dreading having a conversation with someone. They have something they think is important to say, but they avoid it. Sometimes they avoid these awkward conversations for weeks. Even years.
Because they aren’t feeling clear on what they want to say.
They want two things to happen.
I want you to change AND I don’t want you to be upset.
If awkward conversations are a perennial issue for you, consider how you might express yourself directly and respectfully at the earliest opportunity. Conversations typically become awkward because we have made a habit of avoiding the issue and somehow blaming the other person for being difficult rather than taking full responsibility for the interchange.
Simplify your message.
Decide on the one thing you want to communicate.
This is about you, so make sure YOU know what you’re saying.