Having a difficult conversation is an issue that came up with a couple of my clients this week and got me thinking about how I deal with them.
Do I get angry and release my frustrations by shouting or do I say nothing and bottle my feelings up, suppressing them with resentment?
In all honesty, I probably do a bit of both and in some situations, I’m able to follow my own advice and be assertive.
I recognised that the way I react depends on who I want to have the conversation with and my thinking in that moment.
For example, I will tackle an issue with my husband or kids head on. But with people I don’t know as well I might avoid any confrontation and instead swallow down my feelings. That gives me the message that I don’t value myself enough to speak up. Then the hurt I’m feeling often comes out non-verbally in my body language.
Does this sound like you?
Whether it’s your boss and colleagues at work or a family member who’s upset you. It’s important to voice how you feel and be heard.
How do I approach having a difficult conversation?
Before you start the conversation ensure the initial wave of emotion has passed so you can have a calm and confident interaction.
Then check whether the environment is suitable for your conversation. A busy open-plan office with others earwigging may not be ideal.
Once you’re ready to speak use my 4 steps to avoid conflict and get the outcome you’d like:
Be curious and compassionate – start by asking questions to understand their perspective and any facts that might explain their comments or behaviour. Most people are only trying to do their best in any situation. So before you offload, check their view of things.
Acknowledge – listening to the other person is essential to show respect but isn’t enough to help them feel heard. You also need to acknowledge you’ve understood what they’ve said even if you don’t agree with them. For example;
I understand that you were giving me important feedback…
3. Self-Respect – this is the part where you get to talk about your feelings and to show respect for yourself by speaking up. Stick to ‘I’ statements rather than blaming the other person as they’re less confrontational. For example:
I understand that you were giving me important feedback, however I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn’t have a chance to explain.
4. Options – you might not always need to include this when you’re having a difficult conversation, but if you do keep it positive and concise. For example;
I understand that you were giving me importnant feedback, however I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn’t have a chance to explain. I’d appreciate it if in future we could discuss this seperately.
Do you have any difficult conversations coming up or have you avoided any recently?
If you’d like some advice, do tell me about your situation by replying to this email or booking a call with me at www.speakwithjo.com. I’d love to hear from you.
I realise that happiness means very different things to different people, however when I recently read a blog about the path to happiness I was quite shocked.
The writer suggested that in order to be happy we need to build a picture of our perfect life and list the things we need to be happy. They could be an Aston Martin, a high-flying career, weight loss or children.
Now I’m all in favour of setting goals and having a vision or direction in life, but as I’m sure you’re aware, happiness doesn’t come from a relationship, a job or a car, but from inside us.
You may be thinking, that’s easy for me to say, but how do I actually achieve it?
The answer is to focus on 3 things – thoughts, feelings and your attitude to life.
Thoughts – We have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, that pop into our heads. some are positive, some are negative and some are “what shall I have for tea’. We don’t have control over those, but we can choose not to engage in the negative ones
Feelings – Our feelings are the result of our thoughts. In the same way as thoughts, they will pass and be replaced by a different feeling. So if at anytime you are feeling uncomfortable, sit with it and remember this will pass and you are still okay.
Attitude to life – This is about having the courage and confidence to go for life and take risks even when you feel insecure
When you work on all of these, you’ll find a greater contentment and happiness. Then you can still aim for that Aston Martin!
“I want to be authentically confident”, is a common wish I hear from clients. But what does being authentic actually mean?
The Oxford Dictionary defines authentic as ‘not a copy; genuine’. To me, it means being yourself, and not an imitation of what you or others think you should be.
You are acting authentically when your behaviours match your beliefs and personality. It can be tricky, though to identify which are your beliefs, from those you may have picked up from your parent or partner.
In my younger years, I moulded my personality and beliefs to fit in with the people I cared about. This meant I traded my authentic self, to ensure I wasn’t judged and I fitted in.
Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety and shame, as well as the need for others to give you the love and approval you can’t give yourself.
It wasn’t until I had the courage to authentically speak up for my opinions and feelings that I stopped the constant search for validation.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings
Being authentically confident requires courage, time and commitment, however, it is well worth the effort.
Here are a few simple steps to help you:
Identify your beliefs and values. These are your moral compass and guide you in the actions and decisions you make. You can identify them by thinking about times you were really happy and times you were very low, and identify what yours and others behaviours were that meant you felt good or bad.
Respect yourself. This sounds easy but can be difficult when other people disagree with your behaviour or opinions. The important thing is to speak up or act on your thoughts, wants and needs. It gives your self-worth such a boost to have trusted and respected yourself
Accept your weaknesses. If you can acknowledge and accept both your talents and your flaws, it empowers you to be authentic. The focus shouldn’t just be on what you want to improve, but also recognising and celebrating your successes
Have courage. Be bold enough to live your life according to what you believe is right, and not let fear stop you from doing the things you dream of. What is the worst case scenario if you were brave? Could you live with it?
Focus on yourself in the present moment. By eeping your thoughts on the moment you’re less concerned about what others think, and it liberates you to be authentically you.
Imagine the empowerment and feeling of freedom, from truly being yourself and listening to what you need and want. From treating yourself with the respect and approval you deserve.
I am a Facebook user, although not it’s greatest fan. I do however often flick through my newsfeed when I’m relaxing in front of the telly at night. It’s through this experience and what my clients tell me, that I’ve realised how damaging it can be to your confidence.
The problem is that social media activates your subconscious to compare and judge. A certain amount of this is natural, but when you are constantly seeing pictures of others having fun and looking good, it triggers your insecurities.
Seeing photos and posts about friends on nights out when you had a quiet weekend can send you into FOMO (fear of missing out).
Or updates about peoples latest gadget or holiday can cause you to want ‘more bigger, better’. These thoughts don’t always go away immediately and can lead to you questioning if you are ‘good enough’.
Recent research from Albright College in Pennsylvania has shown that people with less confidence are more likely to boast on Facebook, especially about their relationships. By showing others that their relationship is okay, they get the external validation that they are okay too.
My advice to clients is to always remember that you aren’t making a fair comparison. What you see on Facebook is generally the window dressing of someones life, whereas you have the full, behind the scenes picture of your own.
I’d love to know whether Facebook is affecting your confidence or what tips you have to ensure it’s just a fun hobby? Do leave me a comment please.
How do I stop comparing myself to others? This is a question I’m often asked by clients.
As women we often find ourselves falling into the habit of comparing our homes, bodies, careers, children and behaviours to others.
Even though I know the dangers involved in being caught in the comparison trap, I still find myself being drawn in.
Picture the scene, I’ve just come back from a fabulous 2 weeks in Turkey with my family. On the day of arrival, I’m by the pool in my bikini feeling white but relaxed and pretty good. My focus then drifts to other women around the pool and before I know it, I’m in full on ‘comparititis’ mode!
Thoughts like “That’s a lovely bikini, but how would it look on me?” or “Wow she has a fabulous figure“
These thoughts as observations are harmless, but if I then use them to judge myself against, it will knock my confidence and body image.
So how do you stop this ‘comparititis’?
It’s all about changing your mindset around how you define yourself. Have a read of these quotes
A flower Does Not Think Of Competing With the flower Next To It, It Just Blooms – Zen Shin
The Only Person You Should Try to be Better Than is Who You Were Yesterday – Unknown
Back to the pool in Turkey. To avoid falling into comparititis I reminded myself that how other people look has no affect on how I am perceived, how my family love me and my value as a person. Whether a supermodel sits down beside me or not, I am still okay and good enough.
I chose not to let any passing negative thoughts affect my self-esteem and instead to look at others with curiosity not judgement.
Does this resonate with you? Do you struggle with comparititis?
If I look back to my much younger self with the benefit of hindsight, there are many things I might do or say differently.
More importantly there are some key messages about confidence I’d want to share with the less experienced version of me.
I grew with a secure and protected childhood, which was wonderful but may not have allowed me to develop my independence muscle enough.
It’s okay to listen to others opinions and take on board different perspectives, but trusting in my instincts and feelings should have been the most important influence.
2. Speak up, you won’t look stupid
Again this is about trusting that what I have to say is as important as anyone else thoughts. There isn’t always a right answer and by speaking up more I would have respected myself and boosted my confidence.
3. Your confidence will grow
I remember that scared feeling, when I first left home, when I got my first job and bought my first house.
Feeling nervous and uncomfortable in new experiences and situations is normal and I’d love to reassure my younger self that the more new experiences I throw myself into the more my confidence will grow.
4. Everyone is doing the best they can
It seemed to me when I first started at University or in new jobs that my peers and seniors all were so confident and sorted.
I now realise that everyone is just doing their best in situations and struggling with their own insecurities. So I should stop worrying what others think and just be me
5. Good enough is good enough
I definitely have some perfectionist tendencies and set myself high expectations. These days I have learnt to be more realistic with my intentions, which means I don’t always have to do or be the best.
The freedom and calmness this has given me are something I would love my younger self to have experienced.
Having said all this, I’ve enjoyed the learning process that has taken me to where I am, so maybe it’s better to discover these lessons for yourself?
Do you have any lessons on confidence you’d like to share with your younger self?
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It’s constantly in the press about the gender pay gap and how as women we’re making great achievements in our careers but not always being equally paid for it.
One of the reasons given for this is that as women we are less likely than men to put ourselves forward for promotions or negotiate for higher salaries.
So what is stopping us from being able to confidently ask for what we want and get it (most of the time)?
One of the explainations is down to our culture and upbringing; often women learn that to be self-serving isn’t ‘nice’ or ‘polite’ and therefore it feels very uncomfortable.
Another reason is for women it’s difficult to get the balance between being passive and aggressive, if you don’t negotiate you’re being too feminine and earn less and if you do negotiate, you’re too aggressive and maybe disliked.
When it comes to applying for promotions research has shown that women are biologically different from men in having the confidence to take a risk.
This was demonstrated when a group of volunteers were shown a job description for a role which would be a promotion and asked if they would apply. The men were confident to apply if they believed they could deliver 60% of the job description however for women they had to be nearly 100% sure before they would consider it.
Whether you want to influence your boss, convince an interviewer or your potential clients. Having the confidence to step out of your comfort zone and being able to confidently phrase your request is important.
People will interpret the way you communicate as a measure of your confidence and self-belief and use this to determine whether to agree to your request or not.
Here are some of my confidence tips to help you ask for more money or a promotion confidently:
Do your research – if you’re going to negotiate a pay rise or a starting salary, ensure you know your market value
Step out of your comfort zone – If you find it difficult to take a risk, build your confidence first with small challenges and remember, if you do nothing, nothing will change.
Use assertive language – this means sticking to the facts, using ‘I’ statements and asking clearly for what you would like. e.g. “There is a new role being advertised in marketing, I believe I’m ready to make that move and I would like your support to apply.”
Avoid apologizing and softening your request – Being polite is important but using phrases such as “if you don’t mind” or “would it be okay if I asked you…” dilute your request and your confidence
Don’t feel guilty – asking for something you want whilst still showing the other party respect is not selfish, instead it shows you value yourself
Get clarity on a negative response – if you don’t get the agreement you were looking for, rather than reacting negatively ask for some clarity. Using a phrase such as “I’d like to understand the reasons for your decision?” or “Can you give me some specific feedback on how I can become ready for that position?”
Good luck and do let me know how you get on!
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Wanting people to accept and approve of you is a normal human reaction as it makes us feel secure and part of the tribe.
I sometimes make decisions or choices to avoid criticism or disapproval, rather than because it’s the best thing for me. I also can avoid speaking up if I think other’s won’t agree with me.
If you are constantly people pleasing like this you maybe missing out on opportunities in life and not showing yourself there expect you deserve.
A need for approval tends to affect our lives in 3 different ways:
You procrastinate and avoid making difficult decisions, resulting in a feeling of anxiety and constant worry
You don’t say no to others and are rushing around working hard with no me time
You lack motivation and are stuck in a rut because you aren’t sure what is important to you and what makes you happy
So how can you let go of the need for approval?
Start being awareof when you are making decisions or taking actions based on others approval. Challenge yourself as to why you are doing this and whether you could do it differently
Develop self-approval. Record the achievements you make, the things you’re proud of and your positive strengths. Congratulate yourself when you show the confidence to keep to your beliefs
Develop self-awareness. Be curious about what drives you, makes you happy and you’re passionately interested in. It’s these core values that drive your decisions and behaviours and tell you when you’re being true to yourself
As I’m still working on my need for approval, I really hope you enjoyed my article! If you did please share it on the buttons below and make sure you sign up for more articles and my Top 10 Confidence Tips
People who lack confidence, and women in particular, are often living their life inside their own heads. This means that a lot of the things they believe is happening in their world, isn’t really.
A client of mine, we’ll call her Sue, was an expert at creating her own environment and as a result had lost confidence socially, at work and in relationships.
If she was out socially she’d be so focused on what other people were thinking about her, and how negatively they were judging her, that she’d become tongue-tied and unable to have a conversation.
At work she would stress about what would happen if she made a mistake or didn’t get work finished on time. In her head this would lead to disapproval, upset and eventually losing her job. Even though she’d had good feedback from bosses, in her mind she was just a small step from unemployment.
Sue has had relationships but because they failed she worried that she won’t find anyone. When she started a new relationship she constantly made assumptions about what her boyfriend was thinking or what his actions might mean. This caused her to waste a lot of time and energy and not to relax and be herself.
I worked with Sue on being aware of when she is creating her own world and making assumptions. From this she could then start to challenge whether her thoughts had any evidence or logic or whether they were actually just her negative thinking.
3 other tips that helped Sue are:
When you meet people stay focused on them rather than being absorbed in your own head. This means actively listening and really taking notice of what the other person is saying. Not being distracted by thinking about what you’re going to say or whether what you just said sounds stupid. Active listening also has the benefit of making the other person feel you’re interested in them and builds rapport
Accept that you can’t know what other people are thinking unless they tell you. So be comfortable with the unknown and choose to believe that most people make positive judgements
Practice Mindfulness, learning how to stay present in the moment rather than reliving the past or worrying about the future allows you to get out of your head
Over time Sue has learnt how to distract, challenge or not listen to herself when these thought storms start. This has enabled her to trust and believe in herself more and her increased confidence means she enjoys life far more.