What is Courageous Conversation?

12 Apr What is Courageous Conversation?


What is a courageous conversation exactly? This is a question I am asked many times in any given week.
When I started speaking about Courageous Conversations, I had no clue it existed.  My friend Hari helped me come up with the title and I thought he as so clever! (You still are Hari).  Turns out the term is pretty well know amongst trainers in the U.S.
Before I knew if it’s existence, I had defined the concept as: The courage to have a meaningful conversation that leads to progress’.  It is not only about having the skills to get through tricky conversations or tense scenarios, it is about using the right words to move forward in a positive way.  I like the definition, I’m sticking with it.

Have you ever sat in meetings where only 1/4 of it is useful?  The rest of the time was filled by people speaking for the sake of speaking without point or purpose!  And while that is fine over drinks with good friends, it is not fine in a work environment.  Courageous Conversation is the antithesis of speaking without purpose.

Below is an example of a Courageous Conversations as opposed to a Cowardly Conversations.  Please note that I only ever use examples that I have seen or experienced in real life.

Courageous Conversation:

  • Mary the Manager: “Why is this box 25% more expensive than you estimated in the budget?”
  • Elaine: “It is 25% more expensive because I hadn’t anticipated choosing with the silver foiled box.”
  • Mary: “So you didn’t think of that early enough?”
  • Elaine: “I tried to cover every angle in the printers brief but you are correct, I hadn’t considered the possibility of the silver foil.”
  • Mary: “Understood.  Next time put the highest possible cost in for the box material so that  we won’t be overstretched on the budget.”

Cowardly Conversation:

  • Mary the Manager: “Why is this box 25% more expensive then you estimated in the budget?”
  • Elaine: “The supplier misquoted, he must have misread the brief.  I have no idea how he got that wrong.”
  • Mary: “Why are you using this supplier?”
  • Elaine: “I guess their service is slipping or they no longer value our business.”
  • Mary: “Let’s change suppliers next time.”

The first conversation resulted in the boss learning that her employee is honest and able to acknowledge an error.  Both parties learnt how to avoid the error next time.

Sadly, the second conversation is much more common, and it generally ends really badly….not just for the printer.


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