“I need tools,” she said. Several heads in the group of 70 White antiracists nodded. “I’ve realized I can’t ignore it or stay quiet any longer. I really need to start some conversations with people about racism, and Trump, and what’s happening. Especially my family. But I don’t know how.”
I nodded too. Even though I was a participant in the group, and not its facilitator, I wanted to help her. I also understood her frustration and confusion. Even after three decades of learning and applying multiple communication tools to my own scary conversations (and helping others do the same), I’ve been getting stuck lately. The old tools don’t seem to be working the way they once did. Listening to the group, I thought perhaps it isn’t new tools we need, but a new mindset. We yearn not just to do things differently, but to be different.
Being different and creating a new world requires more than putting new words and pictures inside the old frames. Here’s a new frame for scary conversations: mindset and “heartset” are often more important than skillset. Lack of an effective mindset or aligned heartset can derail or dilute the best scripts and carefully pre-planned words. Mindset and heartset are the new-school skillset that equips us to be creative and generate the “right” words in the moment – allowing room for imperfection and inevitable mistakes. The 6 C’s are a guide to getting the right mindset and heartset so we can have scary conversations with improved confidence and effectiveness.
1. Courage – tolerate the fear of having the conversation, and take the risk anyway.Courage isn’t a feeling or lack of feeling. It’s acting in spite of fear. Taking action when you’re not afraid can be effective, but it’s not courageous – neither is numbing or stuffing fear. Acting out of recklessness or ignorance can also be effective, but not courageous. In Game of Thrones, Jorah compliments Thoros for his legendary prowess in battle years before, saying “you were the bravest man I ever saw.” Thoros reveals he wasn’t the bravest man, just the drunkest – so drunk that his comrades had to tell him about his heroics next day. Conversations are scary when there are high stakes, meaning you may lose something valuable. You may risk losing the relationship, your cool, your authority, your identity, or even your physical safety. Courage is necessary to acknowledge the risks, feel the fear, and take action anyway. How to grow Courage: Figure out what makes the risk worth it to you, or the conversation necessary despite the outcome. Be committed to your purpose and values, but not attached to outcomes. Through therapy, coaching, meditation or some other practice, build your self-trust and confidence, learn to let go of control, and learn to not fear your emotions. Read the rest on HuffPost!