Difficult conversations is one of those evergreen topics that people in business are often interested in, and I was reflecting on that this morning. And why is having difficult conversations so difficult? I think for one thing, we have social norms related to having difficult conversations, and in white culture, there is a profound norm toward politeness. And politeness is a way of navigating discomfort as well as having civil conversations, and that becomes the norm. It becomes the expectation. And when you think about the way that people navigate discomfort and disagreement in organizations, how often do you hear somebody say, I'm uncomfortable with that? In which case, the proper response is, no, Greg feels uncomfortable with this. We've got to make it okay for Greg, right? And so, it doesn't let us develop the skills that work with the discomfort and channel it into a more constructive way of dealing with conflict. So, my own fascination has been with what I call leading mindfully. And that is adopting the practices of mindfulness writ large as a way of managing our inner experience, because that's really what is coming up for us with difficult conversations. What's difficult about it? The way I feel in my body below, the way that I am on my mind is starting to race, the way that I'm starting to feel emotions rising and I'm not really sure I can maintain some kind of civil and polite control of them. So, through these practices, what I do is help people become attentive to what's arising for them in the moment, and when they can do that and notice it. It provides an opportunity to become more resourceful. So, rather than freaking out with it, we work with how it feels in the body and then adopt a new shift, either through mindset or actual breathing practice. Or perhaps focusing less on how I'm feeling and more on my intent in what I want to have happen as a result of the conversation. And once I can do that, get in that more resourceful place. I'm in a better place to respond as opposed to react or to run away, which is also or even freeze, right? So, it's fight, flight or freeze response that we're having to work within a more skillful way. And then, what I also do is help people come up with not really a script, but almost marks to hit within the conversation, which is to name what's happening, name what I observed. So, in some ways you're just narrating your inner experience, like I notice when you say that I start to grow uncomfortable, right? So, you're just naming what's in the room, the elephant in the room, and then to reframe what you're experiencing like. I know I'm feeling uncomfortable, but what's more important to me is that we find a way through a difficult patch together and then inviting. Can you help me with that? Would you be willing to work on this with me, right? And so, this this process of name, reframe and invite is a way of inviting the conflict as opposed to pushing it aside or running away from it. So, that's my formula if you will, for having difficult conversations. I'm wondering what other people who are joining us think of these methods, or how you might have seen this in action or even used any of this yourself. >> So yeah, Lily, I think that's really wonderful. I mean, I think when from at least a research side as well, it would allow the consulting work people do, and organizations around things like employee voice and speaking up and pointing out problems, sharing your ideas. A lot of these topics you're describing come up, whereas one side of the equation is how do you manage yourself and manage the tensions and manage the emotions that you're bringing in to this interaction. And the other side from the leadership side is recognizing that in other people. And what do you do to manage it? Lower their barriers to speaking up, and lower their barriers to engaging in difficult conversations. Because where people are considering bringing up something that could be challenging or having a tough talk, they're engaging in their brains in this kind of calculus, right? Or they kind of think on one side, what's the likelihood of a good outcome here, right? And I'm going to weigh that against things like how scary is this person I'm considering speaking up to, right? Are the kind of person who bulldozes other people, or what are they powerless? Are they not going to do anything even if I bring it? Right? Or are they sensitive? The kind of people who are going to make me feel stupid for bringing it up or not. And the funny thing is in organizations, frequently you ask people, how do you think you're doing on employee voice? People at the top of the hierarchy, the people who have power, right? And people with power tend to be less threatened definitionally, right? They tend to say, I have an open door policy. People are completely safe speaking up and talk to me about anything. And you go down and ask the folks below them and say, is it safe to speak up here, around here? And they go, mm-hm, no way, it's suicide to speak up here, [LAUGH] no way. And so that tells me at least there's this huge disconnect between intention and action, right? When it comes to having an welcoming voice and having difficult conversations that has to do around changing that calculus, what can you do to make it less perceived? Make it seem less dangerous in people's perceptions. How can you make it seem like you're much more willing to take action on people's recommendations to be open? To be sensitive? How can you rebalance so that people say you know what, it's totally safe, I've seen it happen. I can talk to this person, and even if they can't do something about it, they'll tell me why, right? They'll have heard me out, right? How do you start trying to rebalance that calculus? And I find that like what you're talking about is just so incredibly important right now to be able to facilitate a good conversation where people aren't going to feel that kind of well, the same levels of fear and judgment. And you have to overcome their entire past experience with hierarchy, too. A lot of the reasons people believe the things they believe is because of past experiences with a spoken up and gotten hammered for it, right? Or they spoken percent something or challenged authority, and they had a very bad experience because of that. And they port that with them, just like we put a lot of our, my wife and I joke around this, right? We try to make sure that each other, we're not responsible for the baggage that the other person had from their prior relationships. So it's like if other people acting like x, y, and z, that doesn't mean I'm going to, but as leader you're dealing with that too with your followers. If they've had leaders who treat them badly or who aren't open to voice, they bring that forward with their experience with you. And now, it is actually your job to overcome all of that baggage and try to work through it so that they feel comfortable with you and speaking up too. So it's such an important topic and I love your helping to work through the emotions of it. >> I agree, having sort of worked in organizations around, sort of developing difficult conversation skills for many years. What I really love about sort of what you're structuring too, Lily, is this whole idea of I don't know, maybe the right metaphor is always think of like a hardware, software metaphor or something like that, right? Here is the pressing request that I always get, which is tell me what to say, what are the words that I use? What's the terminology? That's what I want to hear. And I almost never do that because part of it is the answer and having the functional conversation isn't really about what to say, because anything that I tell you to say, if you say it just to one person versus another, it could get you in trouble. Do I call a person black or African American? I'll give you one, you're going to offend somebody. [LAUGH] Okay, how's that for you? It feels to me like what's critical in the difficult conversations skillset is kind of what you're talking about is helping get the underlying architecture? How do I manage my anxiety? How do I put myself in a position where I can now begin to make the best choices given the context, the person I'm talking to, the setting? And then how do I sort of develop behavioral skillset? All the times I work with sort of a set of eight or nine different skills that I can practice like anything else, you go to practice and you keep using them. But a lot of people and this is happening so much, I don't know if you have experiences, but in this time of social unrest in the USA, here in the summer of 2020. So many people that I'm talking to, so many people in the organizations are like tell me what the thing to say is, tell me what the right thing to do is. And I probably frustrate them by saying no, I'm not telling you that. [LAUGH] I hope you figure out, it's like I'm not going to give you a fish but I'll help you learn to fish. >> Yeah. >> And so that to me is what's critical and it feels to me like that's when you talk about the mindfulness. That's really what it really begins to surface in foreground, which I think is so important. >> Yeah, and that's what I call the inner work and the outer work. And one of the things that I tried to dispel is that meditative or mindful practices are all about calming, they're studying for action. It's all about bringing yourself into a more resourceful place so you can move forward constructively in action with other people. And if we can't get that across then it's really a problem. Thanks for the I like the word architecture. It's a good word. >> And also, it's important for us to be mindful of how we're narrating the other person. There's research that shows that Americans, by and large, are comfortable having conversations around diversity and inclusion in the abstract or in general terms, in the most inclusive terms. People welcome those kinds of conversations. So I'll talk about our differences just like we all welcome a great potluck, right? Everybody's bringing something and everybody can feast on it and try and taste and we walk away feeling fed. But when it comes to conversations that flag structural inequality, oppression, injustice, systemic oppression, and marginalization like race, those conversations are actively avoided in our organizations. So in the mindfulness space, it's important to be mindful of how we're narrating the other person when we're having these conversations. Are we viewing the other person as being impolite or uncivil or inappropriate or even more extreme? If it is a person of color, are we narrating them as angry or agitated or overly emotional or being political? Lots of different ways to undermine and discredit what another person is saying in a difficult conversation, which then creates this barrier of self-protection. So I can still sit in my space and feel like I'm the good person, I'm the good one, and they're out of line, they crossed the bound, they're out of control. And we've got to just be very mindful of our tendency to try to comfort and bolster ourselves by putting down other people, especially when these threatening discussions come into play. So instead, flip it and say, how can I help to cultivate and sustain a more positive identity for this person in this moment? How can I help them to feel more strength and more virtuous, like they're growing and developing and progressing, like they're helping me to become a better person through what they're sharing with me right now? And those positive identity dynamics can help us to move forward beyond some of those barriers and limiting beliefs about good person, bad person. >> So when I think about what are difficult conversations, I often think about, well, they might be difficult because we don't have them any other time in our lives. Imagine you're on a plane and somebody says, we just hit turbulence, pilot passed out, why don't you come in and fly the plane? That's a moment when [LAUGH] all of us go, I don't think I have an experience flying planes. For me, this goes back to these questions of segregation. People don't have conversations cross race with other people. Our data show that, we have it when we have diversity conversations at work or at school. But the reality seems to be that in our social, it's not only in our neighborhoods, not only in our schools, but in our social lives. When we come together, we don't come together with people of different races. And when we come, on the occasions when we do, there's the, again, overlay of work, the overlay of trying to please and worry about evaluation. And so my sense has always been that people are uncomfortable because this is a conversation that they know about, but they have colluded not talk about. And it occurs to me that this discomfort is because they are being asked to fly planes that they've never flown before. I think just there's so much energy right now, as Martin said, on people reading books on trying to find ways to learn about what they did learn about and I I really appreciate all that. I also think the likelihood that they have someone in their life right now, they could tell them some of those things that are in those books, is really low. And I think when we think about when's the last time you had dinner with someone of another race? Could you ask someone to pick you up from the airport that was of another race? Have you, in fact, been in those settings where before it gets uncomfortable, we're just sharing our personal life stories in the way we just did. And all the data I read points to the fact that This doesn't happen.