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Courageous Conversations: The Future is Now

Courageous Conversations: The Future is Now

Recently, I hosted a webinar titled Tools for Courageous Conversations on the Ellevate Global Network. Ellevate, also a Certified B Corp, believes in the positive impact of women in business. Ellevate’s goal is to close the gender achievement gap by investing in the advancement of women in the workplace. In my webinar, or “Jam Session,” I had the opportunity to speak to the ways that courageous conversation can create positive change. This seems to be a timely topic, as I was told that 650 people registered, one of the largest jam sessions to date.

The future for courageous conversations is NOW.

Social media is one way for individuals to engage in existing courageous conversations and start new ones. The hashtag #CourageousConversations launched recently to explore the challenges of race in our community. It is full of inspiring posts on topics including race, violence in schools, bias, gender equity, and equal pay in the workplace. Recently, #CourageousConversations has included posts honoring the late Linda Brown, who was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ultimately ended segregation in U.S. schools.

[Related: 8 Ways to Change Culture Within Your Sphere of Influence]

Tools for courageous conversations.

When starting your courageous conversation, it’s helpful to have the right tools on hand. In the webinar, we covered a few tools from my Conversational Intelligence training on the connection between neuroscience and the quality and effectiveness of our conversations.

1) Know yourself.

In order to empathize with someone else, you need to be in tune with yourself. Look to understand your personal triggers—in other words, the comments or questions that send your brain to a place of protection or defensiveness. When we become defensive, we obstruct our ability to have a productive conversation.

Take a moment to reflect on a recent high-stress conversation. What did you experience physically, emotionally, and mentally? Learning from our worst conversations helps us avoid those traps in the future.

2) Make trust your goal.

The level of trust in a relationship has the single greatest impact on the quality of a conversation. Every interaction, big or small, is an opportunity to build trust with others, even if you don’t think you see eye-to-eye.

[Related: Advice On Building Trust From Business Advisors Who've Been There]

3) Recognize blind spots.

When things go off-track in a conversation, it’s often because there is a gap between intention and impact. Our intention is what we hope our words communicate, while the impact is what the receiver understands. The gap between intention and impact is a conversational blind spot moment. The easiest way to recover is to use a tool called “double-clicking.” Double-clicking entails following up with additional questions to confirm that the listener understands your intention. We often assume that others understand what we mean, but this assumption can lead to friction and misunderstandings. Double-clicking helps close the gap between what the speaker means and what the listener hears.

[Related: Solutions to Cut the Drama and Tackle Communication Breakdowns at Work]

Each of these tools will help you engage in courageous conversations with compassion and confidence. The energy of the webinar audience was tremendous, as we shared ideas and inspiration to take forward. Courage is needed in conversations in all areas of our lives. Now is the time to take that step.


Need help framing your next #CourageousConversation? Check out Mary Stelletello's blog series on the full Conversational Intelligence toolkit, or get in touch for coaching on how start your next courageous conversation.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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