I don’t know too many normal people who find it easy to confront others. I sure don’t. I always go through an internal debate in my own head. Surely, this isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe I should just let it slide? or Someone needs to tell her. Wouldn’t I want to be told if I were in that situation? And on it goes.
I once asked Ilene Muething, a friend of mine and a consultant to our company, how she worked up the courage to confront and challenge some of the powerful CEOs I knew she coached. I had a difficult time imagining myself doing it.
She told me that it was tough at first, but over time it got easier. Usually, she just reminded herself of a few simple truths that gave her the courage to speak up. Her insights were extremely helpful to me, too. Of the many thing I learned from Ilene, this has been one of the most valuable.
Whenever I need to have a potentially difficult conversation with someone, I remember that:
- What I have to say is important. If I am struggling with whether or not I should say it, this is generally a clue that I need to speak up. In that moment, I am seeing something or sensing something that is important and needs to be said. The risk of not speaking up is greater than the risk of speaking up.
- They need it to go to the next level. Clearly, if they could see it on their own, they would have already changed their behavior. The fact that the behavior persists is an indication that this is a blind spot. They need help—my help!—to go to the next level.
- They can handle it. Too often, we see others as weak and fragile. We are afraid that if we speak up they will shatter into a thousand little pieces. But this is simply not true. We need to think of people as giants. They can handle it, particularly if we “speak the truth in love” (cf. Ephesians 4:15).
It really comes down to taking a stand for the greatness of others. People have way more potential than we often think they do. They can change, but unless we find the courage to speak up, they may not have the opportunity.