3. Identify Your Key Conversation Dilemmas

An old adage says that "you cannot call up your heart's desire without calling up what imprisons it." Conversation dilemmas represent the opposite of your vision -- the prisons that keep it from happening and keep things exactly the way they are today. They are the sticking points that block action. They are exactly the things that concern you when you visualize your start-up trust-building conversation with ________________; things that are often somewhat unpredictable. In some cases it may not even be clear whether these things will be part of the conversation, but they could be and that's enough to create hesitation.

The most important dilemmas are those that become barriers to action. At Step One these barriers were expressed metaphorically as "a sand dune" and as "the hump" you must get over. While vision energizes, part of the work is also addressing these elements of the situation -- from inside out.

As also mentioned earlier, these barriers can be our teachers. They drive us deeper into ourselves to learn how to live our most important values and principles for action, and they also can help us awaken to our own deeper wisdom. They help us find qualities in ourselves we are meant to discover. The first thing to do is to notice which barriers inhibit us the most -- these are likely to be aspects where the fight/flight syndrome is most powerful. We can feel it in our guts or throats or chests as a physical "tightening up."

Read through the following lists; then add on your worksheets any additional issues that were not identified but are important to you in your trust-building work. Notice that none of these issues is about ______________. They are about you and your actions and reactions. That is intentional. Do not add issues that are negative judgments about the character or motives of ______________, but do add issues that realistically reflect your fears.

For example, do not add to the lists something like this: "______________ is manipulative." Do add: "Worrying about being manipulated." Do you see the difference? One is a character judgment; the other is simply a fear that you must own.

Once you've read through the whole list, go back and pick a few that cause the biggest fight/flight responses, the ones that cause you to tighten up the most.

Finally, select just one to focus on as you continue the process -- the one that causes the biggest internal reaction. Don't worry, you can come back to this list and work the process as many times as you like when designing your conversation. Use this one dilemma to begin exploring how you can use a barrier help plan your conversation.

Parts of the conversation
  • Knowing how to start the conversation
  • Raising the most sensitive issues directly
  • Developing agreement about a problem
  • Naming the facts, perceptions, and feelings that need to be on the table
  • Fostering responsible follow-up action by both of us

Managing my emotions

  • Staying optimistic and upbeat
  • Overcoming feelings of shyness or embarrassment
  • Managing my hurt feelings
  • Addressing my sense of responsibility and my regrets
  • Controlling my temper
  • Overcoming my anxiety or nervousness
  • Communicating with confidence
  • Feeling unheard or discounted
  • Worrying about the other person's reactions
  • My discomfort with feelings or "touchy-feeling" topics

Creating a genuine dialogue

  • Keeping the conversation going
  • Talking about current discomfort or past tensions
  • Acknowledging my mistakes
  • Developing mutual respect
  • Creating a shared vision
  • Neutralizing blame and defensiveness
  • Offering forgiveness
  • Appreciating one another for who we are
  • Working through disagreement and difference
  • Being open to feedback
  • Offering feedback
  • Being assertive about what I want or need
  • Being honest, real, or genuine
  • Being vulnerable
  • Letting go of past baggage
  • Overcoming misunderstanding
  • Getting past my negative beliefs about __________'s character or motives.
  • Overcoming conflicting values
  • Being genuinely sensitive to ___________'s feelings and needs.

Addressing what could happen during the conversation

  • Handling cutting remarks, sarcasm, or put-downs
  • Dealing with moments of awkwardness, tension or silence
  • Handling mixed messages or ambiguity
  • ___________ taking things too personally or sensitively
  • ___________'s expression of anger or frustration.
  • ___________ cries.
  • Setting clear boundaries for civil conduct

Dealing with potential results

  • My fears of later repercussions or retaliation, subtle or otherwise
  • My cynicism or faithlessness that anything will change
  • My fears of lasting damage to the relationship
  • My fears I'll end up with more work or burdens of some kind