You are not alone. Just about everyone wants to avoid hard conversations. The reasons are remarkably similar, says Jennifer Abrams, author of Hard Conversations (Corwin Press).
If you are procrastinating here are some common reasons that keep you from addressing an important conflict.
- You want to be liked. This is important to you, so important it makes you hesitate to do your job.
- You don’t want to experience emotional discomfort. You hate it when someone starts crying. You don’t know what to say or do and you’re worried you’ll lose credibility.
- You are too young, too old, too new in your role, a man, a woman, or in some way not the right person to speak for the organization.
- Perfectionism—You need to get an A in having a hard conversation. Or your school culture insists that you have the “perfect” hard conversation.
- The person you must have a talk with has a lot of drama going on in his or her life now—divorce, financial difficulties, family problems. You don’t want to add to the drama. This is not a good time.
- You like the person. She is pleasant, cooperative and nice. She always brings brownies to faculty meetings. You don’t want to hurt her feelings.
- You don’t think the conversation will change anything significantly. This person has an abrasive personality or doesn’t have the ability to improve very much. They are probably doing the best they can.
Jennifer says it’s important to separate showing care for someone from holding them accountable for doing their job. You can show empathy, be very thoughtful in what you say and how you say it, but still hold people accountable for their roles. While it is good to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, your first responsibility is to your students’ educational welfare.
When she has trouble finding her voice as an advocate for students, Jennifer says she remembers something she heard Georgia Congressman John Lewis say to a group of students. When the students asked him what advice he had for them as they moved into their adult lives, the former civil rights activist said, “Get into trouble….necessary trouble.” Jennifer says she often recalls the Congressman’s words when she must have a difficult conversation.
She believes every hard conversation is an opportunity to find your voice around what matters and speak for students. It is an opportunity to get into necessary trouble.