I’ve been doing a series of video interviews for an event called Gather that I’m hosting — all about brave, honest conversations. In reflecting on what people are telling me when I ask them about brave, honest conversations I’m struck that at our core we are all seeking connection. That is why we come together — in friendships, families, community. To be connected.
Its easy to get lost in our busy lives and our to do lists, goals and some days just getting through the day — but there is so much more. If you peel away the layers and just sit with someone else in conversation there is this magic that happens — being seen, seeing others, allowing yourself to talk about what matters most. It’s like when you slow enough to sit with someone else you can dip into your own gentle heart to see what it has to tell you. These are the moments our lives are made up of, and for so many people these moments are few and far between.
n these video interviews I’ve been asking the same general series of questions about brave, honest conversations along these lines:
What are you committed to personally? What do you believe or what motivates you?
What needs to be present to have brave, honest conversations?
Where have you struggled or been challenged?
What are your insights or advice to others?
What is your hope for the future?
The wisdom and honest insight people are sharing gives me hope and strikes me to my core. I have found over the last year that when I use the 3 words “brave, honest conversations” they create a resonance and a yearning in people that is powerful. We all want more of what happens when we have those kind of conversations — we are all drawn to the possibility they can create in our lives. At the same time most of us are hesitant, afraid, and uncertain about stepping into these kinds of conversations, in all parts of our lives. They feel big, uncertain, scary.
I think we’ve normalized all the not talking we do each day, all the ways in which we don’t bring our whole selves to others, the ways we avoid or distract ourselves from being with the heart of things. Although I’m in the business of brave, honest conversations even I don’t want to have them all the time, every day! They can be heavy and exhausting and wear you out. But if we don’t have them, we also don’t have connection, belonging or a sense of what matters most.
I always say that brave, honest conversations are how we solve the problems in our worlds, together. That’s true but its the outcome or result of brave, honest conversations. Before you get there you get all these other beautiful things that create the most important moments in our lives; you get curiosity, kindness, opening hearts, listening, deeper understanding, connection…and then perhaps solutions co-created together.
Outrage is our new norm. We live in times of polarization, blame, shame and vitriol where the sides between people are getting further and further apart and yet at the same time there is this deep yearning and desire for conversation and connection, for peeling back the layers to find kindness and to sit and talk with someone else about things that matter. That yearning is widespread — in organizations, in communities, in families, within yourself.
So here is some random wisdom I’m gathering from these interviews. If you want more brave, honest conversations in your life think about these insights and apply to yourself. There are simple and also deeply profound — as if we all learned them in kindergarten and then forgot them over time. Now we need to re-learn them.
Be kind. In a time when people are so quick to shout their opinions and demean others who don’t agree with them, people are yearning for a little kindness. If you want this for yourself, try giving it to others.
Get curious. Curiosity requires you to be open, to let go of judgment, to explore and see what is out there in the world. Curiosity is required for creativity, and is the path to understanding. Choose a mindset of wonder and surprise.
Be humble. The world is full of people shouting their answers and expertise loudly and stridently. None of us have all the answers (because we wouldn’t have any problems if we had all the answers and were all right). Lighten up a little, accept that you make mistakes and step into the humanity of who you are. When you do that your heart unfolds and sometimes it allows other people to do it too.
Have brave, honest conversations with yourself. The first and most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. Self-awareness and self-knowledge are crucial to leadership and to your ability to create strong relationships. Most people spend very little time having tough conversations with themselves, and instead focus on other’s wrongdoings, mistakes, errors, difficulties and missteps. I like to say that leadership is an inside job-if you can look deeply into yourself, it will allow you to look deeply into others.
Come home to yourself. Find out what matters most to you, what you are committed to, what you believe in and bring your whole authentic self to the world. When you live from a place of deep authenticity anything is possible. When you put on a mask — your professional mask, your parent mask, your wanting to be liked mask etc. — you create a barrier and a disconnect from others. Just be you, at home in your own skin, and live from there.
Take responsibility. You are at choice every day, in every moment of your life. In your relationships, in your conversations — you are the architect of your own life. When you choose to avoid the conversation or to put something else as more important, you are also choosing the consequences of the state of that relationship or issue. Choose thoughtfully — not every day has to be full of deep, heartfelt conversations but some days should have them.
Get messy. Brave, honest conversations are hard, uncertain and messy. There is no straight line and they aren’t for the faint of heart. Not all your conversations are going to go well or the way you hope. Try to let go of expectations and just step forward. These conversations can reap the biggest rewards of your life and they require you to be OK with being scared, uncomfortable and uncertain.
Be there for someone else. When I asked one interviewee what he hopes for the future he said, “I hope that we can be there for these human beings who are entrusted to us for the time we are with them so they know they can talk to us, that we are there for them, that we care. I hope we can realize that the humans in front of us are far more important than anything else we do today.” That about sums up what it’s all about. Let go of the rest of it and be there for someone else today.
I want for all of us to have the connection that comes from having brave, honest conversations.
I want for all of us to find our courage and compassion to talk together about what matters most.
It starts with you, with a first step. Let go of all the things you have to do, and just take a moment for a conversation with someone else, about something that matters. You will be surprised at what happens.