Turn Confrontation Into Conversation by Creating Emotional Safety

When we need to bring up a touchy subject–especially when the other person is notoriously defensive–it’s natural to convince ourselves it’s just not worth it.

It will feel unbearably awkward and only make things worse, we convince ourselves.

Yet, if we DO bring up the issue or give the feedback–and we do it skillfully and with compassion–we have the opportunity to not only resolve the problem, but also to literally transform the relationship.

Courage + Kindness Is the Ticket

I speak from personal experience, from being willing to “put my Big Boy Pants on” and stare down my fear of confrontation.

I speak from personal experience of  thinking through carefully how to approach the situation and getting my attitude right BEFORE talking with the person, so I  will bring it up in the most respectful, clear, constructive way possible.

That means including courage (in the form of clarity and not sugar-coating my truth) and…kindness.

For me, kindness means being mindful of my voice tone, word choice, and intention.

It means not using overly harsh words or sarcastic language to make my point, but instead use language and voice tonality that communicate respect and empathy.

Sometimes it takes days to get to that place, but it’s worth the work and time investment to do so.

If we speak with courage and zero kindness, and bludgeon the other person with our perspective, opinion, or judgements, our message will likely be lost, and the relationship further damaged.

If we focus only on being kind and respectful, but don’t exercise the courage needed to address the tough issues and say the hard things, we cheat both ourselves and the other person out of an opportunity to grow, become a better person, and work things out together.

Creating Emotional Safety: an Interview by Jodi Flynn

Last year, Jodi Flynn creator of the Women Taking the Lead podcast interviewed me. While most of her interviewees are, not surprisingly, women, she occasionally interviews a man to get the male perspective of women as leaders. It was one of my all-time favorite interviews, as it felt more like having a conversation with a really smart friend than a formal interview.

In it, I share some personal stories of the impact of creating emotional safety so people are willing to hear what you have to say and…speak their truth. I also share a story where I faced my fear of confrontation and what happened (it blew my mind!).

I hope you find it useful:


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Never Underestimate the Power You Have to Make a Difference…When You Give Feedback

How to Give Tough Feedback That Enables Someone to Grow by Monique Valcour (Harvard Business Review Online)

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