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finally stress free around difficult conversations

Feb 15, 2024

As a leader of color, I know you are navigating complex conversations every single day.

 

You have to clearly, compassionately, and firmly have difficult conversations like:

✅giving feedback to folks who are underperforming

✅letting folks know that their role has been terminated/diminished, or they’re being let go ✅sharing new, company policies that you know will be unpopular, but are necessary

✅receiving feedback when your leadership hasn’t been quite up to snuff (it happens!)

 

Most of the time, those conversations go well – folks in your organization get it, no one gets visibly upset, and even if they don’t love the decision, they respect it, and everyone moves on.

Even though you know that👆🏿👆🏿👆🏿

… more often than not, you find yourself stressed as fuck before going into these conversations.

 

You spend the days before you have difficult conversations in a space of anxiety, ruminating on

👉🏿how you’ll be received

👉🏿if folks will be upset with you

👉🏿anticipating pushback or being shut down

👉🏿the impact of your conversation on the other person

👉🏿whether you’ll panic, shut down, or not communicate yourself clearly

👉🏿if what you say will cause harm despite you trying SO hard to do good

 

These kinds of conversations are tough for any leader, but it’s especially tough for you based on the societal conditioning you received as a person of color.

You were likely taught within a patriarchal society that folks socialized as women should always strive to make everyone else happy.

You were told that your role in society is to make other people’s lives easier, and if you’re not focused on others and in service of others over your own needs, then you’re a selfish bitch.

This even extends into leadership, where you’re expected to balance a tightrope of not being too nice or else you’re weak, but not being too cold or aggressive or else you’re, well…also a bitch. 

(It really always comes back to that word, doesn’t it?)

I’ll add in the complexity here that as a leader of color, you also have tons of lived experience of your decisions and your communication style being questioned, even if you intentionally model your communication style directly after the white folks who work with you.

All of those elements make it feel unsafe to have complex conversations as a leader, without us even going into your unique familial and cultural dynamics and what you’ve learned about communicating difficult topics from the people who are closest to you.

As if that social conditioning doesn’t make communication hard enough, communicating things that you know might hurt someone’s feelings, upset them, or have a negative impact can be tough for you because you’re someone who tries to lead with true compassion.

You really do care about how your decisions impact the folks that you lead, and about your team’s emotions, not just their labor.

So – how do you navigate these complex conversations in a way that simultaneously is aligned with your values, but also doesn’t leave you in an anxiety spiral for days in advance?

This might seem counterintuitive, but you need to focus a little less on the other person and focus a little more on you.

 

Hear me out:

Of course it’s important to consider your impact in the way you communicate.

 

That being said, once considering your impact begins to make you anxious, nervous, stressed out, then it’s officially moved into a place that’s no longer productive, and is 100% unhelpful.

It’s unhelpful because when you’re stressed and anxious, you’re actually a worse communicator.  (I didn’t make this up, this is scientifically proven)

Your brain literally has less access to complex thought when you’re stressed – so if you’re spending your time before these conversations stressing out, you’re actually guaranteeing you won’t communicate as well as you want to. 

When you’re stressed, you’re also on the defense and protecting yourself – this means you’re not able to lean as fully into your values as a leader, and to show up as the grounded, honest, and present leader that you want to be.

It means that you’re definitely going to stumble over your words, say shit that you don’t mean,  and forget important things that you want to say. (Which will then lead you to ruminate on how you fucked everything up afterwards too…)

 

If you want to communicate in a way that is simultaneously compassionate, clear, and grounded in your values, without activating your anxiety,  the most important thing you need to do ahead of a complex situation is to focus on you.

1️⃣ Pay attention to how you’re feeling – and if you’re feeling stressed, take note of what unhelpful stories or thoughts are creating the stress, and practice challenging them with something more helpful. (No matter how true a thought is, if it makes you feel like shit, it’s not helpful, I promise.)

2️⃣ Spend less time worrying about what you “should” say or what’s the “right” thing to say, and instead focus on what YOU really want and need to say. Then, you can focus on how you want to communicate this to ensure you’re doing it in a values aligned way (aka a way that feels right to YOU.)

3️⃣ Remember that no matter what you say or how you say it, you can’t control someone else’s reaction, or emotions. Instead of trying to control the outcome, focus on all the evidence you have of times when difficult conversations went well, and allow yourself to focus on the possibility that this next conversation could go well, too.  You can also focus on all the evidence of times when conversations haven’t gone well, and you’ve survived and things have been okay. Then, you’ll know you can handle whatever comes your way, good or bad.

 

If having complex conversations without anxiety still feels like a mystery for you, I get it.

This is something that’s tough (but getting so much easier!) for a lot of my clients too.

If you’d like support moving your focus away from people pleasing and the stress that comes with it, and towards communicating in a way that’s anxiety free and feels values aligned, grounded, and safe, then you should schedule a time to chat with me about working together 1:1.

In coaching, one of the things that we do often is talk about all of the complex situations that you’re navigating as a leader, how you want to approach it, and how would feel best for you to communicate each situation.

I act as a thought partner so that you can have space to figure out what’s right for you and your organization – and so that you can process the feelings that you have along the way.

Together, we also dig into the part of you that wants to be to perform in order to be “good” or to “please” others – so that you can kick that to the curb and instead show up from a place that’s centered on you and your truth.

I’ll also support you to feel safe no matter what you’re communicating (or to who!), so that moving forward, you don’t have to feel anxious, stressed out, or on edge for days.

Sound like something you’re looking for? 

Let’s schedule a time to talk about 1:1 coaching.

I’d love to help you feel confident in your decisions, communication, and leadership and kick your stress to the curb in the process.

 

xx,

Gieselle

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