An old adage tells us that “if you wait to drink when you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” Modern wisdom, and biology, challenges this by saying that thirst is the body’s way of telling us we need water, so it’s in fact ok to wait until you reach the point of thirst.
But why wait until the need is so great? What might you miss out on by not proactively nourishing your body (and mind) with what you know it needs?
Why wait to have the conversations you know you need to have?
Conversations in organizations are happening all the time. It’s how work gets done. You’ve probably got at least a few scheduled on your calendar right now, let alone all of the impromptu hallway conversations and unforeseeable calls you’ll get today. Most people complain that there just isn’t enough time in the day to get work done when we’re busy with meeting after call after meeting. People tell you what conversations you need to have simply by putting the time on your calendar.
It’s often the conversation that really needs to take place - the one you may be avoiding - that gets sidelined, forgotten or de-prioritized. Perhaps...
You’re a manager and there’s a tough feedback conversation you’ve been putting off.
You’re a VP and an issue has been escalated which requires that you bring together your management team to resolve and move forward.
You’ve just joined a company or taken a new role and those “silly questions” are piling up that you know you need to ask now, before it’s too late.
For most, the pattern of "waiting until you're dehydrated" leads to greater anxiety, tension and stress in the workplace. If you look below the surface, however, you’ll find a fear that is stopping you from doing what you need to do. Fear of discomfort, conflict, embarrassment, being “wrong” or even having to do the work. The reality is, these fears will always creep up, but how you choose to handle them makes all the difference.
Here are three easy steps to tackle the conversation that’s weighing on you:
Get in touch with what you need right now. What will lighten that heavy feeling or move you forward? What roadblock do you need to clear, or maybe even get ahead of, to be successful? Self care for what you need will go a very long way in helping you achieve your career goals.
Consciously assign its importance. If you decide it's a priority, and you can imagine the outcome, you’re more likely to take action. Ask yourself, "how will I feel different after I've addressed this?" Target when you want to take action, and make a personal commitment to do so.
Do the required prep work. Preparation is more than half the battle, because not feeling ready is often what inhibits us from doing something. Take time to get in touch with where you’re at, where the other person will be coming from, and the key outcome of the conversation. Use coaching techniques where possible by asking good questions, and not always coming from a place of “knowing”. In doing so, it will be a conversation rather than a monologue.
A client of mine had an ah-ha moment after acknowledging that she was putting off a meeting - a BIG conversation - that was important for her career. I distinctly remember a shift in her demeanor and outlook between our “before-action” and “after-action” call, when when she finally had the conversation she was avoiding. In her words, she felt lighter, and realized how much of the stress surrounding the conversation was self-inflicted. Pressure is actually okay - even good for you - as long as you handle it in a healthy way.
I try to stay in touch with that “feeling” that comes up when I know I’m avoiding a conversation. It’s usually a feeling of heaviness or responsibility, which eventually triggers me into action. What's that feeling for you? The key is to short-circuit how long that pattern goes on for.
So ask yourself: What conversation am I avoiding, right now - professionally or personally?
Drink up and be honest with yourself, because that’s the very one you should be having.