Do you keep putting off that difficult conversation because you keep playing out 50 horrible “what-if” scenarios? What if they get upset? What if they cry? What if they yell? What if they storm out? What if they quit? What if they don’t like me anymore?
Those things might happen, but they are not likely to happen. We build up and project all of these worst-case scenarios and use them as justifications to delay or avoid difficult conversations.
The reality is that while some small version of your worst-case reaction may happen, it likely won’t be nearly as bad as the extreme version you’re obsessing over – and no matter what (short of workplace violence) you will feel better for having had the conversation.
A client of mine was delaying a conversation with one of her team members – she knew she had to have the conversation and that delaying it was only making it worse, but she was so worried about the potential outcome.
I told her the same thing I’m telling you – that whatever she was imagining was likely much worse than what would actually happen. And that no matter what she would feel relieved to have the weight of that conversation off of her shoulders, and then she and the employee could work together to resolve the issue.
We may think that putting off or avoiding an uncomfortable conversation is doing the other person a favor, that it is the kind thing to do – this is very, very misguided. We don’t do ourselves, that employee, or the rest of the team any favors by failing to address a problem – this is the opposite of kind.
As Dr. Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”
We cannot control how the other person will respond, we cannot control the outcome of the conversation. All we can do is control whether or not we have the conversation, the way we go about it, and the way we handle things moving forward.
Oh, and the client I mentioned above - after our coaching session she had the conversation with her team member...and it went really well. When I heard from her after their meeting, the relief in her voice was palpable.
So, prepare, be professional, but release the outcome.