Does any phrase strike more fear in our hearts? Our brains immediately go to the deepest, scariest places to imagine what terrible news or problem must be addressed.
Decades ago, I used to think that if I were only in the right job or the right relationship that there wouldn’t be any problems. Time changes everything.
Now I know it’s not “if there’s a problem” but “when there’s a problem”, and I’ve tried to develop some tools.
This article from Harvard Business Review focuses on actions we can take to prepare for and engage in hard conversations. From all of these, my strong suit is #2: lead with bad news simply and clearly in the first sentence. My experience has taught me that this helps scare away the monster thoughts that inevitably fill our minds. My growth area is to find the best time and place for these conversations. For example, I used to close my door, but I found that seems to scare people. I used to make appointments, but the anticipation can leave a person too worried to process information clearly. Now I try to be in person and immediate so that there are no lingering doubts about a situation. Almost always I find that the person I’m talking with “knew” something was coming and is glad to have the open dialogue. Notice that I said almost always?
My advice to others is to find a strategy that fits your personal style and allows you to feel that you are being your most authentic self.
Of course, before doing anything, be sure that it’s really your problem to solve. Remember the monkeys!