When she shared the situation with me, I asked, "Are you willing to have a conversation to address this with your direct report?"
"Well, I know I should, but I don't want to come across the wrong way."
How many of us can relate to this?
For us introverts, the constant voice in our head asks the question, "What will they think?", especially when we are facing a difficult conversation.
Whether the conversation has potential for the listener to have a different opinion than us, whether we fear emotions will turn negative during it, or whether there is risk escalating, we would rather hold off the conversation than encourage someone to think ill of us. But we don't have to.
Like many of us introverts, my client was holding herself back. This shouldn't be surprising that an extrovert suffers similar behavior anguish as introverts. All of us humans escalate back and forth on the introversion/extroversion scale.
And in this case, she was giving more thought to her actions prior to producing them. That is an introvert trademark - a very good one, I might add. It isn't thinking that creates the problem. The struggle lies in figuring out How to Do what we want to while still creating the impression we need.
So I offered a tip by starting with a question.
"How do you want to come across to your employee?"
"Well, it's not so much how I want to come across as it is how I don't want to come across."
"Even better," I shared. "Let's start there. How don't you want to come across?"
"I don't want to be pushy. I don't like when people are that way with me, so I don't want to be that way with others."
"I'm glad you know how you don't want to come across, because that gives you a perfect way to start the conversation."
She looked at me confused, so I continued.
"How you don't want to come across will be what you're focusing on before you ever start the conversation. It will affect the tension in your face and other parts of your body, so the best thing to do is to point it out, starting the conversation with it."
"For example, simply say -"
'I don't want to come across pushy, ...'
I could see the lightbulb go off in my client's face, yet she wanted more, so I continued.
"then finish the opening remark with how you do want to come across."
"I don't want to come across pushy, but instead, I'd rather support you. Here's the situation..."
Immediately my client relaxed. Perfect. Because when we start our conversations this way, that's exactly what happens. We relax, which sets the tone for our listener to do the same thing. We have put our intentions out there so within the boundaries of those intentions we live out the conversation. Those in the conversation with us see the boundaries and likewise, relax into the conversation.
This reflection step, which is a step easy for introverts to take, is the key - How do you want to come across? How do you not want to come across?
If you want to make your difficult conversation easier, consider what your intention is.
If you can identify these things, you can express them. And once you express them you will behave accordingly.