It’s natural to want to avoid being uncomfortable, whether it’s physical or emotional, our brains are on a never-ending quest to prevent us from suffering. Unfortunately, it misleads us by activating fear and mislabeling situations as something we should avoid. We end up missing opportunities to learn, grow, and create strong, lasting relationships because we are fearful of stepping up and leaning in. Often we see that when we address the person directly, our initial assumption was way off the mark.
When we embrace uncomfortable conversations, it allows both parties to be honest and open to explain their own perception of what might be contributing to the situation at hand. When an employee can trust that we will have open communication with them, it prevents them from creating their own stories around the situation and misinterpreting intentions. Having a coaching conversation with an employee provides opportunity for growth and it will create loyalty through trust within the relationship, ultimately enhancing the employee’s desire to perform better.
We all have different perspectives, and if the uncomfortable conversations never happen, it leaves a wide-open space for interpretation. Because we all come from different walks of life, it is rare that our assumptions and stories are similar or accurate; we often think up a much more dramatic story then what is actually the case. Our minds go to a place of fear that can then lead to blame, victimhood, and a series of other thoughts and emotions that don’t serve anyone. By embracing those tough conversations, it saves time and heartache by clearing the air quickly, getting back on track, and ultimately working much better as a team.
Another form of embracing the uncomfortable is creating and holding boundaries. This applies in all of our relationships. In our businesses it is essential when communicating with employees, coworkers and clients to utilize boundaries. In the words of author Brené Brown, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” This can happen quite easily as an employer or even a manager, when we fail to set boundaries and accountability for our employees, it allows them to interpret the job with their own perception. If this is not in line with what we expect of them, we often create stories that the employee doesn’t care about the business or their job, or they are just lazy, etc. It is more likely that they are just not on the same page and in their mind, they are doing everything right, or they may be completely unaware that they are not meeting expectations. Most people actually do care about performing well, but without boundaries and upfront communication it is next to impossible to find success.
With clients, a similar feeling of being used or taken advantage of may creep up without boundaries being set from the beginning. The fact is, people crave structure; they want to know where they stand in relationships, and want to know what is acceptable and what is not from the other person. Clients will appreciate knowing what to expect as a client; they can hold you accountable to providing it, and you can hold them accountable to their demands if they are not reasonable. The relationship may become hostile if there are unspoken expectations and boundaries that are being crossed, but no one is addressing it. Setting boundaries keeps everyone on the same page and when boundaries are being impeded upon, it makes the conversation less uncomfortable because the foundation of expectation was already set. Boundaries are a tool for reference to get back on track and clear up any miscommunication. By having a conversation quickly, it keeps everyone accountable and the boundaries at the top of mind.
Last but certainly not least in the topic of embracing the uncomfortable is vulnerability. Vulnerability can be a scary thing and the majority of us do not really know how to embrace it due to fear of the outcome. In business, vulnerability is extremely important as it allows us to connect with people on a much deeper level, which enhances communication and creates loyalty. It also allows us to delegate better as we are free to ask for help when we need it. Asking for help provides a platform to learn and perform better. When we don’t pretend we have it all figured out, it opens the door for others to share their knowledge and expertise, we benefit from the knowledge and they benefit from being able to contribute. It also aides to avoid burnout by working more efficiently. Rather than spending three times the effort to get the answer that a colleague could have given us in 30 seconds, or by delegating, which empowers the employee to contribute and frees us up to work on the higher-level projects. Don’t get stuck in the mud trying to do it all yourself, it may be uncomfortable at first, but the more we practice, the easier it gets. Lesley Poladsky