Working Courage

September 21st 2015

Whenever I coach people in communication, one thing becomes clear: we always want Someone Else to change. My clients spend a lot of time and effort creating the perfect scenario whereby Someone Else suddenly stops creating drama or magically becomes more productive at work.

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Here’s the thing: Someone Else is an illusion. He or she simply doesn’t exist. The only way anything in our working lives will change for sure is if we initiate that change. To initiate change, we need courage.

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As I work with people to communicate usefully, I ask them what they could do, what shift in perspective they might take, to improve their work environment. Clients never hear me the first time I ask those questions. They immediately begin telling me again what Someone Else might do to make life better. 

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Eventually, though, we reach a point where they realize that they’re the only ones who can initiate change. They begin to understand the need for courage. That’s when we discuss specific tools. Here are three of the most effective:

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  1. Speak up. Say what you think, always with respect. Say what needs saying to the appropriate person rather than to everyone else. Say it with as much calm as you can muster, along with clarity and civility.
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  3. Establish boundaries.
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  • If you want someone to behave differently toward you or your team, let them know. Be clear and kind.
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  • When someone hurts your feelings, tell him. Most people have great difficulty being this vulnerable, but only in doing so do we have a hope of stopping the behavior that hurts us. Someone Else most likely doesn’t even know he’s hurting you.
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  • If you sense that a conversation is becoming emotionally manipulative, end it. Drama Divas exist in every firm and both genders. It’s a waste of time and energy to get sucked into their vortex. Just walk away gracefully. Find something better to do.
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3. Never forget that you are one part of a whole team. Make the team’s morale your responsibility, regardless of your position in it. Lift them up, no matter where they are on the org chart. Encourage them. Support them. Remember that we are all fighting battles, seen and unseen.

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These tools are simple but not easy to use. They are often forgotten in the heat of the moment and in the pressured atmosphere of a busy firm. 

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Exercising courage means we are clear, consistent and civil. At our best, we can also be kind. Ultimately, courage gets us out of the business of waiting for Someone Else to do something and puts us in control of ourselves. What a gift that is.

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communication, professional development

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