When life gives you lemons… We have a wonderful metaphor, right? But what if the lemons you are given are in the form of a difficult conversation. Well if you are like the rest of us, more than once you have passed on the chance for lemonade all together.
Difficult conversations often don’t even get started for the huge provocation they carry.
In our Half Day Retreat, we explored Difficult Conversations and had the luxury, as was palpable for everyone, of doing so with a group of people we felt safe with and trusted. In fact, a difficult conversation presented itself in our midst and was embraced on the spot. ‘Lemonade’ and laughter was enjoyed by all. It was truly a day of practice. While it is an intimidating topic and remains one (we weren’t miraculously healed of our dread of such moments) we were able to openly discuss why it is something we mostly avoid tackling, what gets in our way of even starting the conversation, and a little something about the difficult conversations we actually do want to have – even if we’re still not ready to address them.
It was mentioned that just that, just being able to talk about the looming difficult conversations in our lives, brought some relief. Some of us may or may not actually go forward and have the difficult conversations we know are there, and still there was an opening just in being able to honestly share what this kind of situation is like for us.
At the start of our day, Marcia asked our group what we already knew about this subject. Our collective wisdom shone once again as most of what we mentioned ended up being on the chart Marcia shared with us from the book “Difficult Conversations,” by Stone, Patton, and Heen. You’ll see the chart below.
While I did take copious notes of the meeting, summing the retreat up is beyond me in this moment. But I can say this: if our group of dedicated, open-hearted, service-oriented, and extremely generous volunteer listeners find it intimidating to face difficult conversations, imagine how hard it is for anyone without the safety and support and trust we experience with one another. It makes me all the more compassionate about the conversations that get left unsaid on a regular basis. But it also deepens my desire to move from the certainty (battle assumptions – as you’ll see in the chart) to the possibility of truly listening to someone ‘on the other side’ of where I stand (learning assumptions, again in the chart).
We will continue to explore this topic. What I don’t cover in this week’s letter will still be shared over this next season or two as the consensus was that we wanted to continue on with this exploration. There is something from my notes, though, that is amazing to share right now. Thought not everyone could stay for the whole retreat, 23 people showed up today! One person hasn’t even taken our introductory training yet! As we introduced ourselves, many volunteers mentioned how long they have been serving at the LP. A very conservative estimate of our collective listening, just of the people who were present (which isn’t even all of our volunteers), was 110 years of practice and service of listening present in the room today!
I imagine at this point you know what I am going to say upon closing, but I can’t not say it:
Thank you, all… for… everything.
On behalf of Marcia and myself,