My dear Dad (may he rest in peace) once said that I was the only person he knew who could have a half hour telephone conversation with someone who had inadvertently called a wrong number. He probably had a point, to be honest. Back then, in social settings at least, I would talk to anyone about anything; I loved the opportunity to engage with others. I wonder now what it was that this approach to conversation was taking care of for me, and I suspect that it was probably something around acceptance and validation; perhaps I felt that if people were willing to engage with me in a long conversation, I was “good enough” after all. It is interesting that now, although I still like to chat, I tend to ask myself “for the sake of what am I speaking” before I embark on many of my conversations, including conversations with wrong numbers.
Even though I was a good “describer of how the world is” during my conversations back then, I don’t think that I was ever a good “changer of how the world is”. For example, in the past I would have found it very easy to have a conversation with a friend about a difficult situation at work. I would have happily discussed for hours how the situation “was” and why it was a problem for me. However, it would never have occurred to me that I could potentially change the difficult situation at work if I had a constructive conversation with those involved in the difficult situation at work. I don’t really know why this was the case. My guess is that it was a hangover from growing up in a time when a child questioning people and highlighting things that they saw as “wrong” did not usually have a good ending, and so I learned not to say anything to those who could take offence at my thoughts.
Using conversations to shift the reality that I am experiencing didn’t occur to me as a possibility until I was receiving coaching. There was a situation with my manager at the time that I found to be really frustrating. Actually, it was more than frustrating. I had basically lost all respect for my manager, and really did not like working with him at all. I was colourfully describing this to my coach one day, and he responded with something along the lines of “Deanne, have you had this discussion with your manager?” What? Are you freaking crazy? The guy is my boss, for crying out loud. Do you actually want me to get fired? Of course, to my coach I simply said “Um. No”, and we had a discussion about whether I could tell my boss how I was feeling in a way that also took care of what was important to my boss. This discussion helped me to see that not only would a conversation be useful, it almost felt essential. And so, a few days later, I engaged in what I think was a rather courageous and productive conversation with my manager, and I genuinely believe that this conversation was a massive turning point for our working relationship.
This experience with my manager led me to forming an assessment that conversations have the potential to be incredibly powerful; they can change what we see as our reality and help to bring about amazing opportunities. For this reason, I now try to live in the question of: What conversations am I not having that would be useful to have?
Throughout my self-doubt journey, I have discovered that one of my patterns of behaviour is that I will assess uncertainty in a situation, opposing the uncertainty and becoming anxious, before slipping then into resignation and convincing myself that there is no point because I will only fail anyway. In the past, this has led to me giving up; there are so many things that I have not done in my life because I was convinced that I was going to fail anyway. To be honest, I think that even my previous pattern of changing jobs frequently was related to my tendency to give up as a result of uncertainty. It occurred to me that this behaviour is not really useful for someone who is trying to change careers and start their own business. Let’s face it, there is a lot of uncertainty to be had in this situation and a pattern of becoming anxious and giving up is not going to get my business off the ground. So, Deanne, what conversations would be useful for you to have?
What I have found is that if I am feeling stuck in how to proceed with my business, there will be a conversation somewhere that I can have to help me become more “unstuck”. It might be that it would be useful to have a conversation with my husband, who will reassure me that everything is going to be ok. It might be that it would be useful to have a conversation with that one friend who says “Oh for goodness sake, Deanne! Why are you doubting yourself this time?” It might be that a conversation with a coaching colleague will enable to me obtain some clarity about how to achieve what I want to achieve. It might even be that a conversation with myself, acknowledging and appreciating my efforts, would be useful. The key is in determining what conversation would help, and with whom.
I sometimes use conversations to help me with my goals. For example, I was struggling recently with some thoughts around the programs that I would like to deliver. I was also in a mood of resignation, and was concerned that I wasn’t going to get anywhere while I was operating on my own from that mood. I felt fairly certain that a conversation with a friend would help. However, I didn’t feel ready to have the conversation; I felt as though I was still getting my thoughts together and that a conversation too soon would be disrespectful of my friend’s time. I decided that I would make a request to my friend for a time slot a few weeks in advance. Once the conversation was booked, I set some goals around where I wanted to be when we had that conversation. Doing this helped me to shift from a mood of resignation to peace and curiosity and, I am now on track to meet all of my goals for that discussion when we meet next week. So, booking the conversation has helped me to make significant progress, and having the conversation will most likely help me to overcome some of my next challenges, from a mood that is now more centred in peace and curiosity.
This new appreciation of conversations has, I think, been incredibly useful for me, and it has opened my eyes to the incredible power that conversations offer. What I have found is that seeing the power of conversations has made me less afraid of having the conversations that I feel would be useful to have, regardless of how difficult I assess that those conversations are likely to be.
Points to Ponder…
- What conversations are you not having that would be useful for you to have?
Who am I?
I am a leadership and life coach, available for coaching and facilitation services. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.