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Tough conversations: What stops you from saying what you want to say?

By Lynne Curry

A medical office manager must be able to have difficult conversations with staffers, speaking up with the right words at the right time. Is this difficult for you? Why can’t you say what you want to say?

Is it:

  • You’re afraid if you speak up or try to fix things, you’ll make them worse?
  • You’re afraid you’ll make someone angry and lose a relationship or job?
  • You’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing or otherwise stick your foot in your mouth?
  • You’re afraid the other person might retaliate?
  • You fear that regardless of what you say, it won’t make a positive difference.
  • You’re afraid you’ll be seen as uncaring or judgmental.
  • You fear that if you start to speak, you’ll have “taken the cork out of the bottle” and all the feelings that you’ve pent up will explode.
  • You fear the consequences of starting a fight you can’t win or stop.

Have you noticed that every item above starts with fear?

Perhaps you’re a manager who avoids addressing problem situations or employees but justifies your inaction to yourself, with statements such as:

  • “She’s only two years from retirement.”
  • “Our department can’t afford to lose him.”
  • “It might get better with time.”
  • “Her performance results outweigh her attitude problems.”

Here’s the truth:

You’re magnifying the risks of speaking up.

You’re minimizing the costs of not speaking up.

You’re backing yourself into a justification corner.

By avoiding difficult, necessary discussions, you sow the seeds of greater trouble. You weigh your relationships and yourself down with unsaid words.

You’ve chosen silence over the hope that if you bring up what you need to say, you can create a positive outcome.

Instead, you play charades. You rely on nonverbal hints and subtle innuendoes. The problem— you’re not that good an actress/actor. When you suppress your feelings, your frustration and anger simmer into a toxic brew that bubbles up. Others feel it and don’t want to be around you.

If you’re a supervisor who doesn’t speak up, your team falters. The problem employee you don’t address irritates others. Your other employees consider you a weak leader.

When you fear the problem that speaking up might bring, not speaking up intensifies the problems. You create short-term relief, but the problem situation lurks in the corners.

What stops you from saying what needs to be said?

Is it time to take a risk, to marshal the courage, and speak up?









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