As creative hot messes, we manage difficult conversations all the time. Whether it’s disputing contracts, quarreling over creative differences, or setting boundaries with students and audience members, embracing difficult conversations is a creative must. But it’s not easy.
Why Are Difficult Conversations Uncomfortable?
To live is to manage conflict. Conflict, however, does strange things to the body. And depending on your experience level, conflict can be interpreted by the brain as a threat, a threat that releases adrenaline into the body. For example, public speaking jolts my heart madly. Therefore, do I escape public speaking gigs? Of course!
But alas, I can’t run away forever.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze
Adrenaline is a mixed blessing. From a survivalist point of view, adrenaline pumps through our veins to prepare our bodies for a potential attack (which is good!): the heart races to increase blood flow to muscles, pupils dilate, and blood pressure rises. Next, our body must make a crucial decision: fight the threat, flee from it, or freeze all together.
Managing adrenaline in real time, on the other hand, is battling with yourself. Literally.
Collaborating with my body is what I do before speaking in front of crowds. My body is my friend, not my enemy, and these strategies help me manage myself:
Breath: Deeply. Continuously. Deep breathing replenishes your body with much needed oxygen, so give it what it needs
Meditate: Mindfulness meditation especially -- the practice of accepting the reality without judgement and then focusing on the breath -- is an especially potent antidote to adrenaline, as mindfulness meditation reinforces conscious acceptance and deep breathing
Plan Your Conversation: Map out your talking points and stick to your script. Going off script, especially if adrenaline is pumping through your veins, is difficult to manage. So plan what you need to say with planned talking points.
Debrief the Conversation: Regardless of the outcome with the conversation, journal or talk with a friend about how the difficult conversation went. Don’t judge yourself. Just vent.
Difficult conversations are a part of life
It’s okay to admit that difficult conversations are, well, difficult
And most times, difficult conversations get the job done
Read the article How to Control Your Body’s Adrenaline, watch How to Train Employees to have Difficult Conversations, and read similar posts in the ‘Managing Yourself’ category of Wellness-ish-ness.