Last week I spent some time speaking with someone I occasionally coach. Last week’s problem was that he and a close colleague were in a tough spot, not communicating well.
Apparently, the colleague was doing some things that were intensely frustrating for my client. The details are not important to the story, but there was a growing sense of frustration. The two of them have worked closely together for a while, and they know each other well. And as is often the case when when two people know each other well, bringing up tough issues or challenging conversations can be difficult.
When things are good between them, they speak all the time, and the conversation flows nicely. But when things are not good, conversation not only stalls, but their contact almost disappears. They retreat from each other, and when there is any conversation, it is often limited to email and text message. The real issues rarely get brought up. And then, over time, it seems to get forgotten and eventually they get back to normal. But my client knows it is not normal and this behavior has led to a growing level of frustration and sadness for him.
So, he called me, for two reasons: first he wanted to vent, and then he wanted to discuss how to handle it. After getting the edge off his emotions with some strong venting, we turned to the more important topic.
He seemed unwilling to initiate conversation… it wouldn’t do much, in his opinion. I asked, “What do you want out of this relationship? Do you want to have a good relationship?” Of course, he said. He wanted to not only work well together, again, but he wanted to eliminate the tension. He wanted their communication to be regular and functional again.
The answer was obvious. I shared that it would be hard to have good communication if he didn’t first simply start to communicate. They needed to talk. He needed to make the approach, in a non-threatening way, set a good tone for the conversation, and be prepared to both listen and say what was on his mind. It might not be a totally pleasant experience, but if he cared about the person, he had to do this.
I’m told their conversation went OK, not great, not terrible. But the first step has been taken. And the point for you here today is that if there is a person or a situation you care about, and something negative happens, you have to talk about it. Think carefully about how and when to have that conversation, but doing nothing is not a strategy for long term success. Too many relationships, personal and professional, wither away and die because the tough topics never get brought up. We dance around them, we pretend like nothing happened, and another brick is placed in a wall between. Eventually, that wall is pretty tall, and the relationship is changed forever.
It takes courage to have a challenging conversation with a close friend or colleague. But it is worth the effort.
Have a great day.
At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at info@TheLatimerGroup.com
Photo by JakeandLindsay Sherbert used under the following license.