I learned how to have an adult corporate conversation when I was 24 years old. I had been given an opportunity to attend a leadership development programme. Part of this programme included supporting development areas through Industrial Theatre. It was the most memorable experience because it sculpted and preserved my (hopefully) skill and attitude to adult conversations.

My area of development was to learn how to manage conflict (queue laughter and disbelief to those who know me and disagree that this was ever a development area…).

My role in this Industrial Theatre was that of an Executive. I needed to address someone’s extra-marital affair that was impacting on their work performance. With camera’s rolling so that we could review our ‘performance’, an ‘employee’ (a brilliant actor), storms into the room and the following transpired:

‘Employee’ charged into ‘my office’, aggressively pulled out a chair, put his feet on the desk and said, ‘so, you wanted to see me?!?’
Me: ‘Yes, I would like to address a rumour about….’
‘Employee’ erupted into anger, slammed his hand on the desk and screamed, ‘Rumour, what rumour? What about this &^I* rumour?
Me: Burst out crying

That was take 1, and in that moment of emotion, I learned how to have an adult conversation. Adult language does not use the following:

  • ‘Someone told me…’ (I worked for a real ‘winner’ who always claimed that ‘someone’ told them something…)
  • ‘I heard that…’
  • ‘It was said that…’
  • ‘Don’t say anything but…’ (and we all know that before the but is bullshit…)

Using language like this is a form of subliminal bullying and causes unnecessary tension. It is un-adult-like.

This is the thing – if we don’t address ambiguous, blankly stated (and negative) discourse, we end up creating uncivil behaviour which contributes to a toxic environment. When we don’t address conversations head on, we cultivate a different truth and interpretation. It takes a strong person to check their source of information. It takes a strong person to speak to only facts. It takes a strong person to address inaccurate information through questioning and clarifying. It takes a strong person to acknowledge that they had the wrong interpretation. It takes a strong person to end a culture that has been made toxic from lack of context, gossip and incorrect information.

I worked for a leader whose philosophy was that if he was going to be given information, he was going to deal with it – and trust me, he dealt! He knew his role – to lead the employees and company to success. He needed to eliminate lack of focus, so if there was anything spoken ambiguous or untrue, he would address it head on. If there was one word to describe why he did this, it is, in my opinion ‘bravery’.

In my post, ‘The Date Tracker’ (https://welcomemetome.com/2019/07/29/the-date-tracker/), I noted that the 25th July 2019 was a turning point in my life. Something in me changed. When I explain my change to my friends, I tell them that I have reached a point of choosing bravery over fear; that I choose challenging ambiguity for clarity, and finally, I choose courage and truth. Step into your brave shoes! Be adult-like and civil and speak to context, the truth and be unambiguous.

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