Questions are like keys – they open doors. Every question sends us on a new journey, and it depends on the quality of the question and the quality of listening how far, how high or how deep we travel. That is the reason, I value and enjoy coaching – both as a coach and as a client.
Every coach has their favorite questions. One of my recent favorites is: “What conversations do you avoid? “. I first heard this question from a leading European coach and author, David Clutterbuck, about a year ago, and I started to experiment with it in suitable moments. This question always opens an exciting door and takes the respondent on an unknown trail… or even a place where there is no trail at all, and it needs to be created: stepping one foot in front of the other. As a hiker, I enjoy those journeys the most. I like to take my clients (sometimes literally!) to the woods and it gives good results! The power of coaching appears when we go into those bushes and bogs, that we try to avoid in our everyday lives.
So far, I have not met a person who does not get any ideas when the conversation-avoidance question is asked. But some are surprised that they were not aware of their avoidance of an important conversation or meeting. Addressing the avoided topic always leads us to an important inner obstacle and overcoming or removing it creates remarkable change.
The question about avoidance forces us to face the topics that we have overlooked, either consciously or unconsciously. It forces us to take responsibility. We see the stump, bush, mountain, or even an ocean between us and our goal, and we have to decide what to do – to turn our backs and walk the other way or to find a way to get through or over it. Taking responsibility is the first step towards creating the life and the future, that we truly want.
Sometimes the conversation you avoid may feel as huge and unpredictable as an ocean, and even dipping your toe into it may feel like you are being swallowed alive. Simply becoming aware of the fact, that the conversation feels as vast as an ocean, makes it more tangible, and our brain, which is incredibly creative, starts to look for solutions. Weighing the pros and cons of different options brings us closer to our truth – what is the right choice for us? What do we actually want? How important is this goal to us? etc. Going even deeper enables us to understand the values that guide us. We can then analyze if they benefit us, or whether they have become an obstacle. When we discover the values that were once helpful, but are working against us today, we can let go of them and replace them with something that can currently support us in taking the next step or leap.
But why bother ourselves, and go on this uncomfortable road of acknowledging avoided conversations and furthermore – having the necessary conversations? Conversations are the main tool for a leader and the leader’s success depends on wisely chosen conversations and the quality of them.
A small thinking exercise
Think about an important goal, that you wish to accomplish. Ask yourself in the light of this goal: “What conversations am I avoiding?” and take a moment to write down all the conversations that come to mind, without any censoring – important and not important, big and small conversations. When you run out of ideas, then ask: “What else?” and keep on writing.
Make sure that you do this exercise in writing, because writing activates more parts of your brain than just thinking, and therefore enables you to get deeper into the topic and into yourself.
Choose one conversation, that has the biggest influence in the light of the goal.
Imagine having had this conversation. What changed in the process of achieving the goal? How do you feel?
Is having this conversation worth taking the risk and stepping out of your comfort zone? If the answer is yes, then what do you need to be able to have this conversation as successfully as possible?
Take notes and get on with it! Good luck!