Crucial Conversations

Hiya! I trust you’re doing well and that this post meets you in good health. A few days back, I spoke to a friend of mine and realized I hadn’t spoken with him in almost six months. I apologized and made a mental note to reach out to friends and family as they cross my mind. In the words of my dear friend, Tosin, we should live “shocking those who are important to us with love daily”. Please don’t wait for a good time; ring them today, send a message, voice note, DM, etc. Each day is a blessing; another opportunity to experience God’s love, don’t spend it on just yourself.

Today, I also want to appreciate you. Yes, you – the amazing individual who has taken the time to read my blog, the one who has subscribed, left comments on each post, follows on Instagram, shares links and posts with their network, gives me feedback, cheers me on and contributes to making this a success! You are the community that anyone would dream of having.

I’ve been spending some time in the past week to help out a friend work through some personal challenges and on one of the days while we spoke, she said, “I struggle to have these conversations. I know I need to, but I just can’t. It’s too hard”. Hearing her say those words set me thinking; and I realized that for a long time in my life, I also had the same issue. See now, I’m introverted and grew up with immediate family who expressed their displeasure as e dey hot (for our non-Nigerian audience, bluntly); so, I learnt to just be the douser of household fires to ensure we don’t all get burnt. As one who would rather not have confrontations, I generally tended to keep my emotions to myself and move on – even when the issue at hand may be eating away at my soul and sanity.

Yes, I know this isn’t right, but my brain processed it as a safe way to avoiding any arguments or heated conversations. I know this is often referred to as the “hedgehog approach” to dealing with conflict and understand the negative toll it took on my relationships; so, now I am intentional about expressing my feelings and concern with tact and consideration; including when it involves having crucial conversations.

In their book, “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High”, by Patterson, Grenny et al, the authors define the term as “a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.” I think this definition is apt considering we will have at least one of these kind of conversations over the course of our lifetime –with our significant other/spouses, friends, teenage children, relatives, colleagues, domestic staff, team members, etc. Seeing that these are inevitable, I think we might all do ourselves a favour by learning how to have them effectively to deliver the right results, which often is change.

In my experience, the first thing NOT to do is have crucial conversations in the heat of the moment. After events happen, please do not attempt to have conversations when your emotions are dancing around and all you can see is a bright shade of red at the back of your cornea. This is most assuredly going to result in more emotional bloodshed; nothing close to your desire for change.

Secondly, watch your language. The truth is, as you both venture into this conversation; emotions are already on the high so every word you speak or use is going through an instant emotional litmus test that would either fuel or douse the raging flame of emotions. This would also determine the trend and outcome of this conversation, so please be intentional about your choice of words. You can only achieve this if you are self-aware and have your emotions in check – as discussed above.

Third, be clear about your desired outcome. Often, we engage with people in conversations saying we want to express ourselves and let them know how we feel. While there’s nothing wrong with that, when you finish expressing yourself and updating them on your feelings – what next? Please don’t assume that the other party intuitively deciphered your feelings, balanced the quadratic equation of your emotions, and deciphered the desired next steps you would like for them to take. If that’s your thinking, omo, na one chance you don enter oh (for our non-Nigerian audience, you’ve put yourself in a bad situation with no means of escape). I would recommend that you also tactfully and compassionately communicate what you would like and ensure that the conversation is a win-win for all parties.

As I thought about this topic and where in the Bible, I could find relevant examples, I realized that the Bible was replete with conversations like these. A few examples are the conversations between Samuel and Saul after God had rejected Saul as king (1 Samuel 15:10-34); between Esau and Jacob after all their birthright wars (Genesis 33:1-15);  between Orpah, Ruth & Naomi urging one to leave and the other insisted on staying (Ruth 1:8-18); and many others.

In 2 Samuel 12, we see a crucial conversation between David, the king and Nathan, the prophet after David had taken Bathsheba as his wife and ensured her husband’s assassination to cover up his shenanigans. While I reckon it wasn’t easy, Nathan delivered his message with tact starting with an analogy and ended by telling the king the implication of his actions. Not only that, when Bathsheba had another child, the same fellow that came bearing the bad news; came bearing the new born’s “special name”. Looking at him with side eye! At the end of the day, the desired outcome of repentance was achieved. I think we can take a leaf from the scriptures to guide us on this process; and see the repercussions of not having them – as seen in the case of David and his sons (Amnon and Absalom over Tamar’s rape). From their story, we see that silence isn’t the answer and can cost a life!

As you study these stories; please keep in mind some takeaways from the earlier mentioned book as you engage to have crucial conversations:

  • Safety First – ensure everyone in the conversation feels safe.
  • Let the Facts Lead – always focus on the facts to keep the dialogue on track.
  • Look Within – while you can’t be sure you can control anyone else in the dialogue, you can control yourself.
  • Find Mutual Purpose – this means being genuine when looking for a common goal and honestly working to achieve the shared goal instead of manipulating or leading towards a personally desire outcome.
  • Curiosity is Key – ask questions and find out why they are feeling the way they are. Be sincere when trying to get to the source of their anger or denial.

There are a couple more tips so be sure to check the book out; or read available summaries.

As always,

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing Amaka. The major challenge is trying to escalate the issue further, thereby causing more damage. We tend to sweep the matter “under the carpet” and have piles of unresolved issues that will later blow up in our faces. My question then, is, how do you have this sort of conversations with unreasonable people?

    1. Truly, these conversations are tricky but inevitable. I honestly don’t have all the answers but when it comes to unreasonable people, i would suggest you pray first. God often has his way of turning hearts. Then approach the conversation with tact and wisdom keeping in mind their tendency to be unreasonable. Be clear about your desired outcome and strive for a win-win where both feel valued. This may not be at the first engagement so patience and tact would be very needed.

  2. Timing is everything sis! You couldn’t have put it better.
    I am like you, avoiding confrontations but I’m beginning to speak up! No time!
    Focusing on the facts are important.
    Tact and wisdom is needed in addressing such conversations.
    Such a great post dear!

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