No. 62
September 2017



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Welcome to the monthly Fearless Conversations newsletter - information and ideas to support and inspire us to create a world in which fearless conversations are common in our workplaces, communities, families and friendships. 

In light of recent events in our country, I want to highly recommend a video on racism and white privilege by Brene Brown. It is worth listening to all thirty minutes. It is very practical and is something you could use for conversation with family or friends, in your communities, in schools, parishes, workplaces.
Thank you for reading and for sharing this newsletter -
Setting a Table for a Fearless Conversation
Questions come up about HOW to have fearless conversations, sometimes called "hard conversations", "difficult conversations".
Facilitators typically refer to the need to build a "container" in which a challenging conversation can occur.  A container usually is a set of agreements that participants consent to that will support having a successful conversation.

I liken building a container to setting a table. Setting a table introduces the notion of hospitality. The intent is to invite each person's wholehearted engagement given whatever thoughts, Business Meeting Conference Leader Brainstorming Concept feelings, needs, beliefs, information, ideas, perspectives they bring.  The first step in setting a table is to listen  -  that is to listen deeply to each person to hear what they are bringing to the table.  I usually ask something like: "Tell us what is alive in you [about such-and-so]."  "What is mattering most to you about . . . ?"  We don't respond in any way - just take in what we hear. 
After we have listened to each person, I ask what fears or worries seem to be present. Sometimes people speak up for themselves.  Sometimes people just offer what they heard. There are no right or wrong answers. Some typical examples are fear or worry about:
- getting angry
- hurting someone
- being hurt
- not being understood
- being judged
- getting too emotional.
This is an important step in setting a table. It begins to change the power of fears and worries as barriers to challenging conversations.  Instead, people begin to relax and feel supported.

People Meeting Seminar Office Concept Then I ask for requests.  Each person has a chance to ask for something that will help him or her "stay at the table".   For example: "If I say something hurtful, will you tell me rather than keep silent about it?"  "Can we agree that everything that is said here is confidential?"  The requests lead to some agreements that I usually write on a flip chart or we note in a simple way.  The agreements keep us grounded in the knowledge of the needs and values of everyone at the table.  The table is set for a fearless conversation.  
Empathy Tip
The empathy tip for this month is prompted by a friend's request to share an article about how to talk to people in difficult or traumatic situations.
Q: I want to be supportive of my friend going through a hard time, but I'm not confident about what to say.

A: This "Ring Theory" might help.  Think of your friend in the center of concentric circles.  Draw the circles. Each circle Quick tip  bulb icon  isolated on cyan blue square button with red ribbon in corner abstract illustration represents your friend's relationships - the closer the relationship, the closer the circle. The key is "comfort in, dump out".
Never "dump in".  To anyone in a smaller circle than yours, offer only comfort and support.  Many times the best comfort is just giving a listening ear - not giving advice or telling your own story.  Share your particular difficulties, discomfort, opinions, stories with people in the larger, outer rings. 

About Fearless Conversations
Fearless Conversations serves non-profit organizations, schools, faith communities and businesses.  Typical requests are for design and facilitation of visioning or team-building retreats, strategic planning, meeting facilitation, transition planning, decision-making processes.

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